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First Bancshares continues regional expansion

By JACK WEATHERLY

Hattiesburg-based First Bancshares, holding company for The First, has signed an agreement to acquire Tallahassee, Fla.-based Sunshine Financial, parent of Sunshine Community Bank, in a stock and cash deal of about $32 million.

The deal is a continuation of First Bancshares plan to grow a territory staked out in 2009, stretching north to Jackson, south to the Gulf Coast, west to Baton Rouge and east to Pensacola.

M. Ray “Hoppy” Cole, president and chief executive officer of First Bancshares and The First, said in a news release issued last week that “Tallahassee is a growing market which is a natural extension of our strategic vision to build market share in the Florida panhandle and a continuation of our plan to build a regional community bank in the Gulf South.”

First announced in October that it was buying Southwest Banc Shares in Chatom, Ala., for $60 million in stock and cash.

It finalized in January the acquisition of Gulf Coast Community Bank in Pensacola and Iberville Bank in Plaquemine, La., for $33.3 million.

As of Sept. 30, Sunshine had approximately $194 million in assets, $161 million in loans, $142 million in deposits and $22.2 million in stockholder’s equity. The transaction will expand The First’s footprint in the Florida panhandle.

The most recent deal has been approved by the boards of directors of First Bancshares and Sunshine. The closing of the transaction is expected in the second quarter of 2018.

Upon completion of all transactions, including First Bancshares pending acquisition of Southwest Banc Shares, Inc., the combined company will have approximately $2.4 billion in assets, $2 billion in deposits and $1.6 billion in total loans. The company will have 63 locations in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida.

First Bancshares stock, trading under the FBMS ticker symbol, closed Tuesday on the NasdaqGM stock market at $33.35, up 85 cents, near its 52-week high of $33.85.

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