Branching out CresCom Bank expands reach up S.C., N.C. coast

CresCom Bank and its parent company are based at Meeting and George streets in downtown Charleston.

CresCom Bank is extending the reach of its Grand Strand franchise with the acquisition of 13 branches in South Carolina and North Carolina.

The Charleston-based lender said Thursday that it is buying the offices from First Community Bank of Bluefield, Va. The branches have deposits of about $230 million and loans totaling $59 million. 

Three of the locations are in South Carolina and operate as People's Community Bank. The rest are in southeastern North Carolina.

"We really believe this is a growth market for us," said Jerry Rexroad, president and CEO of CresCom owner Carolina Financial Corp.

The bank agreed to pay First Community 3.11 percent of the acquired deposits, which as of Thursday worked out to about $7.15 million. CresCom also will buy the fixed assets, such as equipment and real estate, at book value, which will be determined later.

The deal will nearly double CresCom's retail branch network to 27 locations, including offices it plans to open soon in the Cane Bay Plantation development near Goose Creek and in Socastee.

"Our acquisition of these 13 branches dramatically increases our footprint throughout the coastal region of the Carolinas," Rexroad said. "This is a reflection of the accretive growth our board of directors and leadership team have been striving toward. These branches are in key markets and coastal regions very similar to our current markets, which will help us continue to deliver quality products and services to customers."

The bank's assets will easily surpass the $1 billion threshold, by about $200 million, for the first time once the deal closes by early 2015.

The branches employ about 70 workers. No job losses are expected, Rexroad said.

"It's purely an opportunistic transaction for us. It's not a cost-savings transaction," he said.

First Community picked up the branches after Whiteville, N.C.-based Waccamaw Bank failed in 2012.

More recently, the Virginia lender, which is based west of Roanoke, near the West Virginia border, is focusing on markets "that are in or near our core banking operations," CEO Gary Mills said in a June statement.

First Community had no comment about the CresCom deal Thursday, a spokesman said.

The banking business is in a period of consolidation, as healthy lenders look to get larger, often by buying weaker, smaller rivals. CresCom's latest expansion move doesn't fit into that category, Rexroad said.

"This is a very strategic purchase on our part and a strategic divestiture by First Community," he said.

CresCom expects to put its name and logo on the branches soon after the sale closes, he added.

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.