United Community Banks Inc. in Blairsville, Ga., is deferring interest payments on its trust-preferred securities at the urging of the Federal Reserve.

The $7 billion-asset company said Monday that it would defer payments on $54.6 million after consulting with the Fed. United Community can defer payments, which total $4.7 million annually, for up to five years.

The company's bank is under an informal memorandum of understanding with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance that requires it to have an 8% leverage ratio and a 10% total risk-based capital ratio. At Sept. 30, those ratios were at 7.32% and 12.99%.

The informal action also bars the bank from paying dividends to the company.

"The action taken today will improve the holding company's liquidity position," Jimmy Tallent, its president and chief executive, said in a press release.

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