Merger metrics

What the combined SCBT-First Federal would look like:

Customers: 608,809

Employees: 2,349

Branches: 147 in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia

Total stock value: More than $1.3 billion based upon SCBT’s closing price Tuesday of $54.84

Total assets: $8.2 billion

Deposits: $6.7 billion

Loans: $5.9 billion

Source: SCBT Financial Corp.

The biggest-ever combination of two South Carolina banks will be decided today at investor meetings in North Charleston and Columbia.

Shareholders of First Financial Holdings Inc. and SCBT Financial Corp. who haven’t already sent in their ballots can gather at 2 p.m. to vote on the previously announced stock swap.

The tally will be finalized by early Friday, when both companies release their quarterly earnings, said Robert Hill, chief executive officer of Columbia-based SCBT.

Hill, who would be CEO of the combined banks, said Tuesday that support for the merger “is exceptionally strong from both shareholder bases.”

First Financial Holdings is the owner of First Federal, the largest and oldest bank based in the region. It, like SCBT, traces its roots back to the Great Depression.

The two lenders announced a plan earlier this year to merge through a stock swap to accelerate their growth, cut their costs and further expand their reach through acquisitions. The deal brings together a pair of community banks that opened their doors in the early 1930s, when First Federal set up shop on Broad Street in downtown Charleston and SCBT was founded in Orangeburg.

Under the terms of the merger, First Financial investors will receive 0.4237 of a share of SCBT for each one they exchange.

The stock of both companies has climbed since the deal was announced Feb. 20. Tuesday’s closing prices put the value of the tax-free swap at $384 million, up 27 percent in the past five months.

SCBT, a growth-minded company that has expanded into North Carolina and Georgia in recent years, is the buyer. It expanded into the Charleston region in 2006 and has opened five branches.

The deal would pair SCBT’s operations in the Midlands and along the Interstate 85 business corridor between Charlotte and Atlanta with First Federal’s large presence along the coast.

The nuts and bolts of the merger will take most of 2014 to complete, Hill said. Customers should not notice any changes for a year.

The deal calls for the surviving parent company to be called First Financial Holdings, but the stock will continue to trade under the SCBT ticker symbol.

Hill said the new name that eventually will grace the nearly 150 bank branches hasn’t been decided.

“I think by the end of the year we’ll announce the name,” he said.

An undetermined number of office closings and job cuts are likely. Most of the head-count reductions are expected to be reached through routine turnover and other forms of attrition.

First Financial Holdings and First Federal CEO Wayne Hall, who would become president of SCBT, said the two banks have been working together as the merger vote has approached. “But come Friday, we’ll definitely be one team,” he said Tuesday.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.