Banking & Finance

First Federal, SCBT Complete Merger

By Jenny Callison, posted Jul 26, 2013

As of Friday, First Federal Bank, with seven locations in the Wilmington market, is part of a new banking organization.

The merger of First Financial Holdings, First Federal’s parent, and Columbia, S.C.-based SCBT Financial Corp. is now final. Plans for the two companies’ merger were announced in February.

First Federal, headquartered in Charleston, S.C., has a total of 66 locations in the Carolinas and ranks eighth in deposit market share in South Carolina. Locally, the bank is also eighth in deposit market share, with deposits of $236.8 million.

SCBT Financial Corp. is the parent of SCBT, NCBT, Community Bank & Trust, Savannah Bank and Bryan Bank & Trust. Prior to the merger, SCBT had three North Carolina locations, all in the Charlotte area.

“This opportunity to get into Wilmington gives us additional coverage in an important state,” said John Windley, SCBT president. “We have an opportunity now to grow both north and south.”

Southern growth would be spurred by SCBT Financial Corp.’s ownership of banks in Savannah and Richmond Hill, Ga.

Since February, officials at First Federal and SCBT have been planning for combined operations and developing a new entity that would continue to reflect the mission and cultures of the two organizations. The new bank’s parent company will be known as First Financial Holdings. The new bank’s name as well as many operations details have not yet been decided, according to the officials.

“We’re going to take our time and do it right,” First Financial Holdings’ CEO and president Wayne Hall said of the merging process. “We want to minimize the impact for our employees and our customers.”

“We’re still in the planning process,” Windley said.

Hall said that he and Robert Hill, president and CEO of SCBT Financial Corp. have been talking about a possible merger for the past three to four years.

“Now the time is right,” he said. “We’re creating a dynamic community bank in the Southeast. Customers will benefit the most from this.”

The new merged bank company claims more than 600,000 customers as of Dec. 31, 2012 as well as 146 locations in South Carolina, North Carolina and coastal Georgia. Taken together, the banks have $8.2 billion in assets, $6.7 billion in total deposits, $2 billion in mortgage production and $3.5 billion in total annual loan production. Preliminary figures suggest that the combined bank will rank fifth in the South Carolina market.

Friday’s announcement came on the heels of SCBT’s release of its second quarter operating results. It reported net income of $12.5 million, operating earnings of $13.1 million and an increase of $42.8 million in core deposits.

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