United Bankshares acquiring West Virginia bank

By Danielle Douglas
Monday, December 20, 2010

By Danielle Douglas

United Bankshares, with dual headquarters in the District and Charleston, W.Va., has entered into an agreement to acquire Morgantown, W.Va.-based Centra Financial Holdings, enhancing its footprint in Maryland and West Virginia as well as offering entry into Pennsylvania.

The $186.9 million transaction, subject to regulatory approval, is slated to close in the third quarter of 2011, giving United a total of roughly $9 billion in assets. Centra brings to the table $1.4 billion in assets, $1.2 billion in deposits, 15 offices and one loan origination office. On its own, United, with $5.6 billion in deposits, has 112 branches throughout Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and the District.

Steven E. Wilson, chief financial officer of United, said Centra's strong capital levels and credit metrics were attractive. The bank, which remained profitable through the downturn, also fits United's geographic target.

Merging with United will offer Centra's customers additional services and locations, not to mention provide shareholders with "substantial liquidity . . . a meaningful premium on their stock and a threefold increase in the dividend," said Douglas J. Leech, chairman and chief executive of Centra, in a release.

This deal marks United's 28th bank acquisition since 1982. Most recently, the institution snapped up Winchester, Va.-based Premier Community Bankshares in 2007 and Sequoia Bancshares of Bethesda in 2003.

Analysts anticipate the pace of consolidations will hasten, as healthy regional banks take advantage of attractive valuation and continued bank failures.

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