published Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

First Citizens to buy Southern Heritage Bank in Cleveland in $32 million deal

COMPARING THE BANKS

First Citizens National Bank

Headquarters: Dyersburg, Tenn.

Assets: $1.2 billion

Offices: 21 branches

Size: 7th biggest bank in Tennessee

Staff: 285 employees

2013 earnings: $14.05 million

Founded: 1889

Southern Heritage Bank

Headquarters: Cleveland, Tenn.

Assets: $237 million

Offices: Three branches

Size: Third biggest bank in Bradley County

Staff: 64 employees

2013 earnings: $2.8 million

Founded: 1999

Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The parent company of First Citizens National Bank in Dyersburg, Tenn., plans to acquire Southern Heritage Bank in Cleveland, Tenn., for $32.2 million in stock and cash.

Under the merger agreement announced Monday, Southern Heritage will retain its name and bank president J. Lee Stewart will continue to oversee the Cleveland bank operations.

First Citizens, Tennessee's seventh biggest bank with assets of nearly $1.2 billion in Middle and West Tennessee, will expand into East Tennessee for the first time with the purchase of the 15-year-old Southern Community Bank.

"We are incredibly exited about this partnership, which introduces First Citizens to the vibrant community of Cleveland and significantly expands our presence throughout Tennessee," Jeff Agee, president of CEO of First Citizens Bank, said in an announcement of the merger agreement approved by the boards of both banks. "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 operates three full-service banks in Bradley County. First Citizens was founded in 1889 and has 21 branches in eight counties.

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.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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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