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Merger To Boost South State Bank

By Jenny Callison, posted May 19, 2017
South State Bank will expand its local presence later this year when an announced merger with Park Sterling Bank becomes final.

The merger’s impact in the market that encompasses Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties will be to provide “additional depth” with the blending of “two talented teams,” South State Bank Market President Mark Tyler said earlier this month.

The transaction will boost the local market share of the combined company, which will operate as South State Bank.

“We’re No. 11 in [Wilmington] market share, and Park Sterling is No. 13,” Tyler said. “Our combined presence is projected to take us to No. 8, which is a pretty big move.”

The rapid growth of the three-county region provides additional opportunity for South State to draw new customers, he added.

The definitive merger agreement was announced April 27 in a joint release from South State Corp., based in Columbia, South Carolina, and Charlotte-based Park Sterling Corp.

The merger will create a franchise with $14.5 billion in assets operating in North and South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, according to the release.

Directors of both companies have unanimously approved the agreement, the release stated. Pending regulatory and shareholder approvals and other customary closing conditions, the parties expect closing to occur in the fourth quarter of this year, followed by system conversion in the first quarter of 2018.

The aggregate purchase is valued at nearly $691 million. And it is just the kind of transaction that South State considers ideal: a merger of community banking companies with similar cultures, South State Bank President John Windley said in an early April interview.

“There’s the financial component, of course, but the cultural aspect is important,” he said. “How does [the other bank] fit with our company? We have passed on some opportunities because the fit was not good.”

Not only was there a good cultural rapport between the two banking companies, but also the merger expands South State Bank into new markets.

“As we continue to build the company, we would like to have a larger footprint across state, similar to what we have in South Carolina and northern Georgia,” Windley said in an interview May 1 about his bank’s plans for North Carolina.

The combined bank will have that larger footprint in southeastern North Carolina and in the metro Charlotte area, and it will gain entry to the Raleigh market as well, Windley noted. The merger also expands the bank’s presence in upstate South Carolina and north Georgia, and extends the South State brand into Virginia for the first time.

Although South State officials have said that it is premature to make any decisions on personnel and branches, Tyler said that adding Park Sterling’s one Wilmington office brings the number of South State’s area branches to six. Currently, South State has two branches in Wilmington, one in Hampstead, one in Leland and one in Sunset Beach.

South State will use the time between now and the merger’s closing to observe, evaluate and plan, Windley said.

“Park Sterling will continue to operate just as they have,” he added. “We’ll be looking at how we move forward, reviewing products and services, examining people and locations. We’ve done [mergers] numerous times. We have a checklist and due diligence process we follow to make sure we are successful.”

South State Bank had another reason to celebrate this month. Business North Carolina listed the bank among its Best Employers in North Carolina for 2017. South State, ranked 15th among the large companies on the list, earned kudos from its employees especially for its profit-sharing plan, stock options, 401(k) plan, number of paid days off, telecommuting opportunities and sustainable practices.

Specific comments on the employee survey mentioned that people at South State “really care,” and lauded the bank for its “engaged upper management” and innovative internal communications network.

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