A company that owns stock in Whitney Holding Corp. is asking the courts to block the bank’s merger with Mississippi-based Hancock Holding Co.

The AP is reporting that Realistic Partners accuses Whitney’s directors of acting in their own interests at the expense of shareholders and of preventing investors from making an informed decision about the proposed $1.5 billion deal. The suit was filed in New Orleans federal court Monday. Read the breaking AP story, which doesn't mention Whitney's other suitor, IberiaBank, here.

Whitney’s and Hancock’s respective boards approved the stock-for-stock transaction in December, but it has yet to receive shareholder and regulatory approvals. Hancock is buying its larger Louisiana-based competitor, which has been saddled with bad loans. On Jan. 23, The Times-Picayune reported on the ambitious timeline for completing the merger.
In the next two weeks, the companies will file merger applications with the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and state banking regulators. At the beginning of March, Hancock and Whitney will each send their shareholders a proxy outlining the proposed deal. At the end of March, they each will ask their shareholders to approve the deal. If they are successful, attorneys will aim to close the transaction April 30, creating the 32nd largest bank in the United States with $20 billion in total assets.
It was also the T-P that uncovered the intrigue in the negotiations, including how Whitney and Hancock pulled the rug from under an unnamed suitor presumed to be IberiaBank, and the potential golden parachutes for Whitney execs. Both stories ran over the weekend.

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