The Federal Reserve has approved the long-awaited merger of Whitney Bank with Mississippi-based Hancock Bank, bringing the official acquisition date of June 5 closer to fruition.

Hancock announced in December that it was acquiring Whitney, Louisiana’s largest bank, in a $1.5 billion stock deal that shareholders from both banks approved April 29 and the Federal Reserve approved Friday, according to Associated Press business writer Alan Sayre.

Sayre writes on The Houston Chronicle’s website that the new combination will have to sell Whitney’s seven branches Biloxi-Gulfport market, as well as $155.4 million in deposits and one office in Bogalusa:

The combined bank will be headquartered in Gulfport, although Hancock has said that it will maintain a small regional management office in New Orleans. The bank will operate under the brand name of Hancock in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, while current Whitney Bank locations in Louisiana and Texas will keep that name.

Whitney has struggled for several years with bad loans in Florida, but returned to profitability in the first quarter.

The deal has been widely publicized, particularly after filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that Whitney had been in negotiations with another rival bank for more than three months before Hancock swooped in for the acquisition. The rival bank was later confirmed to be IberiaBank.

Other challenges include a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Whitney’s shareholders and a claim from a New York watchdog group that Hancock has a poor record of minority lending.

Read more here, here and here.

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