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BancorpSouth to close 23 branches

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Tupelo, Miss.-based BancorpSouth Inc. (NYSE: BXS), the holding company for six BancorpSouth branches in Springfield, has laid out a plan that would close 23 bank branches in six of its eight-state footprint, including Missouri.

Branches in Greene County and the greater Springfield area would not be affected, Randy Burchfield, BancorpSouth senior vice president of corporate marketing, said in a phone interview, adding that the list of branches to close will likely be released next week.

"We are in the process of notifying our customers. We want our customers to be notified first, if at all possible," he said.

BancorpSouth is awaiting final regulatory approval of what bank officials have called a "branch optimization plan," before closing branches in Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas, according to a news release.

"We went through a very comprehensive evaluation over a nine-month period of time where there were a number of factors taken into consideration ... in essence, trying to determine if the location could obtain adequate growth to justify it staying open to cover its expenses," Burchfield said.

He said the employees at the affected branches would be offered jobs at other BancorpSouth locations.

The branch closings, expected to be fully implemented by the fourth quarter, would save the company approximately $4.4 million in annual expenses, according to the release.

BancorpSouth recorded a first-quarter net loss of $494,000 and reported 2010 year-end net income of $22.9 million, compared to $82.7 million earned in 2009, according to BancorpSouth's investor relations Web site.

Burchfield said the branch closings and the company's net income reports aren't connected.

"It didn't have anything to do with it," he said. "When you look at BancorpSouth's core earnings, excluding provisions for credit losses, our company has continued to have solid performance. That reflects very favorable on our core banking."

In the company's first-quarter financial news release, BancorpSouth Chairman and CEO Aubrey Patterson laid out the company's financial situation.

"BancorpSouth's break-even financial performance for the first quarter as compared to net income of $15.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2010 is primarily the result of an increase in the provision for credit losses of $10.2 million from the fourth quarter to $53.5 million, a decline in mortgage lending revenue of $10.5 million from the fourth quarter, and an increase in salaries and benefits of $4.4 million consisting primarily of increases in Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes, 401(k) contributions and medical insurance expense," he said in the release.

BancorpSouth shares were trading at $13.28 as of 10:42 a.m., compared to a 52-week range of $12.27 to $21.69.[[In-content Ad]]


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