Anxious to join its competitors in the acquisition game, Whitney Holding Corp. of New Orleans, has signed a $67 million deal to acquire a nearby bank.
The deal for First Citizens BancStock of Morgan City, valued at about 2.7 times book value, would put Whitney at about $3.2 billion of assets.
"Whitney is making a move now," said Christopher T. Kelley, bank analyst at Morgan Keegan Co. in Memphis. "Relative to Hibernia and First Commerce, Whitney is way behind the curve, but they're stepping it up now."
The two competitors, Hibernia Corp. and First Commerce Corp., have made some 10 acquisitions between them in the last two years, Mr. Kelley said.
For its part, Whitney has made two acquisitions in the last five years, both in 1994 - a $120 million-asset bank in Baton Rouge and five branches with $90 million of assets in Mobile, Ala.
"This will be the third increment in our strategy mapped out in 1990," said William L. Marks, chairman and chief executive of Whitney. "This is consistent with what we wanted, and we will continue to press forward with this strategy."
Mr. Marks said the bank could reach about $5 billion of assets within three years, with operations in Mississippi and Florida on top of its current two-state franchise in Louisiana and Alabama.
Newly acquired First Citizens, the parent of First National Bank in St. Mary Parish, has 12 branches in southern Louisiana's Acadiana region, an area Whitney targeted five years ago for expansion.
The First Citizens branches would bring Whitney's branch network to 64, of which 57 are in Louisiana.
Acquiring a bank in Morgan City also makes sense for Whitney because Whitney owns three separate parcels of land in the area, bank officials said. The land, which has been owned by the bank for at least 65 years, consists of about 3,000 acres, plus a one-third interest in a 16,000-acre island.
The bank expects to sell the land because a national bank isn't allowed to develop its own property.
If regulators and shareholders approve, Whitney would exchange $49.95 a share of its stock for each share of First Citizens stock. Bank officials would not disclose the actual stock exchange ratio. They expect the deal to close within the first quarter of next year.
Mr. Marks said he did not expect any layoffs at First Citizens, except through "normal attrition."