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Virginia banks on a growth spurt

Recent acquisitions create institutions with more than $10 billion in assets

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Print this page by Robert Powell
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Union Bankshares has $12.3 billion in assets after its acquisition of Xenith Bank.
Photo by Rick DeBerry

Virginia banks that once were small have gotten a lot bigger in recent months.

The most dramatic example is Richmond-based Union Bankshares Corp. At one time a small financial institution based in Bowling Green, Union grew through a series of mergers to become Virginia’s largest community bank.

In January, the company completed its acquisition of Richmond-based Xenith Bank, which had total assets of about $3 billion. The stock deal, valued at $701 million when announced in April, increased Union’s assets to a total of $12.3 billion, a level that redefined its identity. 

“Today marks the start of something remarkable for businesses and consumers in Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina — an independent regional bank headquartered in the commonwealth,” John C. Asbury, president and chief executive officer of Union, said in a statement when the deal closed.

By becoming a regional bank, Union joins the ranks of companies such as Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp. and Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions Financial Corp.
Union points out that no regional bank has been based in Virginia for nearly 20 years. That situation is a stark change from the days when the Old Dominion was home to Crestar, Signet, Central Fidelity, Sovran, Jefferson National, Dominion and First Virginia banks.

With the completion of the Xenith deal, Union now has 151 banking offices and about 220 ATMs throughout Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina.  Union will operate the former Xenith branches as Xenith Bank, a division of Union Bank & Trust until all systems are integrated in late May.

Another community bank that has just finished a big deal is Portsmouth-based TowneBank.

In early February, it acquired Raleigh, N.C.-based Paragon Commercial Corp. in a transaction valued at $323.7 million when it was announced last year. TowneBank now has total assets of about $10.5 billion.

The company will operate in the Raleigh, Charlotte, and Cary markets in North Carolina as Paragon Bank, a division of TowneBank.  TowneBank previously had offices in Hampton Roads, the Richmond area and northeastern North Carolina.

Big community banks aren’t the only ones doing deals. In April, the $450 million Kilmarnock-based Bank of Lancaster completed a merger with Petersburg-based Virginia Bancorp Inc. The combined bank operates as Virginia Commonwealth Bank (VCB), an 18-branch, $960 million financial institution based in Henrico County.

How big can small banks become? There used to be a regional bank in Charlotte, N.C., called North Carolina National Bank (NCNB). It’s now known as Bank of America.  


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