Magazine article American Banker

Whitney Shops in Tex., Rumors Fly in Miss

Magazine article American Banker

Whitney Shops in Tex., Rumors Fly in Miss

Article excerpt

Though Whitney Holding Corp. of New Orleans has not made an acquisition deal in more than a year, it is not for lack of trying, its chief financial officer says.

The $7 billion-asset company, which averaged nearly two deals a year from 1995 through last year, is actively looking at opportunities from Florida to Texas, CFO Thomas Callicutt said last week.

Analysts speculate that Whitney would be interested mainly in banks with $500 million of assets or less, though one rumor had it buying the third-largest bank in Mississippi.

In an interview, Mr. Callicutt said Whitney's focus for acquisitions is Houston, where there are more deposits than in all of the company's other markets combined. Whitney has made three Houston acquisitions since 2000 and now has six branches and $500 million of deposits there. It aims to triple assets there by 2005.

"If the right acquisition came up in other markets we would not pass up the opportunity, but right now we are concentrating on Houston," Mr. Callicutt said.

In Florida, where Whitney has eight branches in the Pensacola area, it is particularly eyeing the Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Tampa markets, he said. It also wants to eventually expand northward, up the Mississippi River.

It certainly has the currency to do deals. At midyear its leverage capital ratio was 9.3% and its equity-to-asset ratio 11%, both well above the average for banking companies of similar size, according to a recent report by analyst Jeff Davis of Midwest Research in Nashville. Whitney's stock has risen about 10% since this time last year; it was trading Friday afternoon at $33.

Whitney has not made a deal lately simply because the price has not been right, Mr. Davis said. "Banks are sold, not bought, and sellers' expectations remain high whether the franchise is good or bad," he said. …

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