Hancock profits rise as Whitney merger costs end

Oct. 26, 2012 at 5:26 a.m.

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - The parent of Hancock and Whitney banks says its third quarter profit jumped as Whitney-related merger expenses eased.

Hancock Holding Co. said Thursday that it posted profit of $47 million, or 55 cents per share. That's 55 percent above the $30.4 million, or 36 cents per share in 2011's third quarter.

That year-ago period was the first after Hancock took over New Orleans- based Whitney National Bank and included $22.8 million in merger costs.

Analysts polled by FactSet had forecast 55 cents per share, on average.

The just-ended quarter contained no merger costs, although Hancock did incur $5.3 million in expenses as it bought back $52 million of debt that Whitney had issued. The company said the repurchase will save it $3 million in yearly interest costs, though.

Hancock's return on assets, one measure of profitability, rose to 1 percent. That's above the 0.85 percent return posted by all federally insured banks in the second quarter and getting closer to the range of 1.1 percent to 1.2 percent that the bank has promised to investors.

Hancock said its loan portfolio grew a strong 3.7 percent during the quarter thanks to demand from business customers, especially energy companies. Whitney traditionally excelled at business lending, while Hancock was more focused on consumers. Hancock said competition for business loans is strong and growth could slow down in coming months.

Loans made by the former Whitney are going bad at a lower rate than Hancock had expected.

The bank said it cut costs by $1.2 million in the third quarter as it cut staff and closed some overlapping Whitney and Hancock branches. Mortgage fees rose $1.3 million in the quarter as homeowners refinanced to take advantage of low interest rates.

Based in Gulfport, Miss., the $18.5 billion company operates as Hancock Bank in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and as Whitney Bank in Louisiana and Texas.



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