Updated: Wed, 12/26/2012 - 01:15

Best of 2012: Savannah Bank sold to S.C. firm

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South Carolina Bank & Trust will acquire Savannah Bancorp and its subsidiaries, Bryan Bank & Trust and Minis and Co., in a $67 million deal announced Aug. 8. The transaction will boost South Carolina Bank & Trust’s asset size to more than $5 billion. The local branches, at least in Georgia, will continue to operate under their current names and management teams.

“What they’ve told us is you have been successful being who you are and we don’t want to change that. We just want to help you,” said Holden Hayes, president of The Savannah Bank. “Our management team remains intact. My title will remain president.”

The lone major operational change involves The Savannah Bank’s two Beaufort County branches. Acquired in a deal for struggling Harbourside Bank in 2009, those offices will be consolidated with South Carolina Bank & Trust operations in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

South Carolina Bank & Trust currently operates four branches in Beaufort County and one in Jasper County.

The Columbia-based South Carolina Bank & Trust’s Lowcountry presence drove the interest in Savannah Bancorp. South Carolina Bank & Trust CEO Robert R. Hill Jr. classified the deal as a “strategic” acquisition for his institution.

“This adds an adjacent market to our existing footprint,” he said. “This takes us across the state line where we weren’t before.”

The merger is a strategic one for Savannah Bancorp as well. The evolving banking regulatory environment favors institutions with assets in excess of $2 billion, according to Hayes.

Savannah Bancorp had $952 million in assets as of June 30 and has shrunk rather than grown in recent years due to the recession, which undercut property values and saddled The Savannah Bank and Bryan Bank & Trust with loan losses.

—Business in Savannah

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