HeritageBank purchases Effingham bank

ALBANY, Ga. -- Less than two weeks ago, HeritageBank of the South executive T. Heath Fountain said the Albany bank hopes to double its size in approximately three years.

HeritageBank got a good start on that goal Friday afternoon, purchasing Citizens Bank of Effingham in an FDIC-assisted transaction.

Earlier Friday, the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance closed Citizens Bank of Effingham and turned it over to the FDIC. A team of Heritage executives were on location at Effingham Friday to announce the purchase.

FDIC officials have been working on an agreement to take over the troubled financial facility and offered HeritageBank $25 million to assist in the transition and to cover other expenses, including problem loans.

Mary Beth Hobby, vice president of marketing at HeritageBank, said Effingham's four branches will open today as HeritageBank of the South. The bank has three branches in Effingham County in Springfield, Rincon and Guyton.

Also included in the purchase is a branch in Chatham County in Port Wentworth. Springfield, the main office, is located about 30 miles from both Savannah and Statesboro.

Hobby said the purchase will add about $140 million in loans and $207 million in deposits to HeritageBank.

Fountain, senior vice president and chief financial officer, said Heritage had about $750 million in assets before the purchase. This will add about $214 million in assets to the HeritageBank total.

With Friday's purchase, Heritage now has 20 branch locations in South Georgia and North Central Florida. Bank officials say the purchase allows it to strengthen its presence in Southeast Georgia which included the previous purchase of branches in the Statesboro area.

Leonard Dorminey, president and chief executive officer of Heritage Financial Group, said the new customers become depositors of HeritageBank and assured them that their deposits are safe, insured by FDIC up to applicable limits and fully accessible.

"We pledge to make this transition as simple and transparent as possible for all and demonstrate the distinctly different style of banking that our customers have come to expect from HeritageBank of the South," Dorminey said.

"Likewise, we welcome the loyal employees of Citizens who join us today and believe they will find this change personally and professionally rewarding."