MOULTRIE, Ga., Jan. 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — AMERIS BANCORP (NASDAQ-GS: ABCB), Ameris Bancorp (“Ameris” or the “Company”) today announced earnings and operating results for the quarter and twelve months ended December 31, 2014, and simultaneously announced the signing of definitive agreements to purchase Merchants & Southern Banks of Florida, Inc. and eighteen Bank of America branches.
Ameris reported operating net income of $41.0 million, or $1.56 per share, for the year ended December 31, 2014, compared to $21.4 million, or $0.89 per share, in 2013. Operating net income excludes $2.6 million and $3.2 million of after-tax merger charges in 2014 and 2013, respectively. Commenting on the Company’s record earnings, Edwin W. Hortman, Jr., President and CEO, said, “We are proud of the efforts of our bankers in 2014 whose collective success produced record earnings and record earnings per share. Our profitability ratios improved again in 2014, with our operating return on assets and operating return on tangible capital moving significantly higher. Organic growth in loans came in at 10% with our bankers continuing to manage stronger than average loan yields. Our growth in non-interest bearing deposits provided funding to exceed the loan growth in part due to our treasury sales efforts. In addition, our non-interest income divisions continue to manage highly profitable operations and contributed 20.7% of our 2014 net income.”
For the fourth quarter of 2014, net income available to common shareholders, on an operating basis, was $10.6 million and $0.39 per share, compared to $3.8 million and $0.16, respectively, in the same quarter in 2013.
Acquisition of Merchants & Southern Banks of Florida, Inc.
Ameris announced today the signing of a stock purchase agreement under which Ameris will acquire Merchants & Southern Banks of Florida, Inc. (“Merchants & Southern”), the parent company of Merchants and Southern Bank, Gainesville, Florida. As of December 31, 2014, Merchants & Southern had assets of $473 million, gross loans of $214 million and deposits of $336 million.
The acquisition strengthens the Company’s North Florida franchise by providing entry points into the Gainesville and Ocala markets, as well as further enhancing the Company’s presence in the greater Jacksonville Metropolitan Statistical Area.
“We are very excited about the Merchants & Southern acquisition and the opportunities that we believe are present in the Gainesville, Ocala and Jacksonville markets,” said Hortman. “Additionally, it allows us to more effectively align our resources in what we believe is the premier community bank operating in those North Florida markets.”
Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Ameris will pay $50 million in cash for all of the issued and outstanding shares of Merchants & Southern. The transaction is expected to close during the second quarter of 2015 and is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
Sandler O’Neill + Partners, L.P. served as financial advisor and Rogers & Hardin LLP provided legal counsel to Ameris. Hovde Group served as financial advisor and Smith Mackinnon, PA provided legal counsel to Merchants & Southern.
Acquisition of 18 Branches in North Florida and South Georgia
Ameris also announced today the signing of a purchase and assumption agreement under which Ameris will purchase certain fixed assets and assume the deposits of eighteen branches from Bank of America Corporation.
“With this transaction, Ameris will further strengthen its Georgia and Florida market presence with the acquisition of a low-cost funding source and an attractive customer base, as well as expand the Ameris team with experienced and talented associates, with a minimal amount of integration and execution risk. This will position Ameris as the largest independent community bank operating in our South Georgia and North Florida footprint,” stated Hortman.
Ten of the branches are located in South Georgia and will add an estimated $424 million of deposits, while eight of the branches are located in North Florida and will contribute an estimated $388 million of deposits. The transaction is expected to close during the second quarter of 2015 and is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
Ameris was advised in the transaction by Sandler O’Neill + Partners, L.P. as financial advisor and Rogers & Hardin LLP as legal counsel.
Financial Results for 2014
Highlights of the Company’s results for 2014 include the following:
- Ameris completed the acquisition of Coastal Bankshares, Inc., increasing total assets by $449.0 million.
- The Company declared cash dividends of $0.15 per common share.
- Profitability ratios improved significantly, with operating return on assets increasing to 1.10% and operating return on tangible common equity increasing to 15.51%.
- Total recurring revenue increased 30.8% to $212.6 million as compared to 2013.
- Organic growth in non-purchased loans totaled $202 million, or 9.8%.
- Non-interest bearing demand deposits increased 25.6% during 2014 to finish at 24.5% of total deposits.
- Annualized net charge-offs for 2014 declined to 0.31% of total loans, compared to 0.69% for the year ended December 31, 2013.
- Credit costs (provision and problem loan resolution and OREO expenses) declined to $19.2 million in 2014, compared to $27.0 million in 2013.
- Noninterest income, excluding gains in investment securities, increased 35.2% to $62.7 million during 2014.
- Net income from the Company’s mortgage division increased 94.4% during 2014 to $6.2 million. Net income increased at more than twice the rate of revenue growth for this division.