published Monday, March 24th, 2014

First Citizens to buy Southern Heritage bank in $32 million deal

The parent company of First Citizens National Bank in Dyersburg, Tenn., Tennessee’s 7th biggest bank with assets of nearly $1.2 billion, is acquiring Southern Heritage Bank in Cleveland, Tenn., for $32.2 million in stock and cash.

Under the merger agreement announced today, Southern Heritage will retain its name and bank president J. Lee Stewart will continue to oversee the Cleveland bank under the ownership of First Citizens Bancshares.

“We are incredibly exited about this partnership, which introduces First Citizens to the vibrant community of Cleveland and significantly expands our presence throughout Tennessee,” said Jeff Agee, president of CEO of First Citizens Bank. “We have long admired the banking culture of Southern Heritage, which is extraordinarily similar to our own.”

The transaction, which officials hope to close in the third quarter after regulatory review and a vote by shareholders of Southern Heritage, is valued at $24.50 per share of Southern Heritage common stock. Southern Heritage shareholders may opt to either receive shares in First Citizens or cash for their holdings.

Founded in 1999, Southern Heritage has assets of $237 million and operates three full-service banks in Bradley County. First Citizens was founded in 1889 and has $1.2 billion in assets at 21 branches in west and middle Tennessee.

Stewart said the merger with First Citizens “is significantly different from any that has occurred in our market area in the past.” The Cleveland bank will retain its identity and the merger will allow Southern Heritage to join “a larger, high-performing, statewide, banking company with a remarkably similar culture and customer focus," Stewart said.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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