Fitch Affirms Hancock Holding Company's IDRs at 'BBB+/F2' Following Mid-Tier Regional Peer Review

  Fitch Affirms Hancock Holding Company's IDRs at 'BBB+/F2' Following Mid-Tier
  Regional Peer Review

Business Wire

CHICAGO -- February 14, 2013

Fitch Ratings has affirmed the long-term and short-term Issuer Default Ratings
(IDRs) of Hancock Holding Company and its subsidiaries at 'BBB+/F2'. The
Outlook remains Stable. A full list of ratings follows at the end of this
release.

Fitch reviewed Hancock Holding Company as part of a peer review that included
16 mid-tier regional banks. The banks in the peer review include: Associated
Banc-Corp., Bank of Hawaii Corporation, BOK Financial Corporation, Cathay
General Bancorp, Cullen/Frost Bankers, Inc., East West Bancorp, Inc., First
Horizon National Corporation, First National of Nebraska, Inc., First Niagara
Financial Group, Inc., Fulton Financial Corporation, Hancock Holding Company,
People's United Financial, Inc., Synovus Financial Corp., TCF Financial
Corporation, UMB Financial Corp., Webster Financial Corporation. Refer to the
release titled 'Fitch Takes Rating Actions on Its Mid-Tier Regional Bank Group
Following Industry Peer Review' for a discussion of rating actions taken on
the entire mid-tier regional groups.

The mid-tier regional group is comprised of banks with total assets ranging
from $10 billion to $36 billion. IDRs for this group is relatively dispersed
with a low of 'BB-' and a high of 'A+'. Mid-tier regional banks typically lag
their large regional bank counterparts by asset size, geographic footprint and
product/revenue diversification. As such mid-tier regional banks are more
susceptible to idiosyncratic risks such as geographic or single name
concentrations.

Fitch's mid-tier regional bank group has fairly homogenous business
strategies. The institutions are mostly reliant on spread income from loans
and investments. With limited opportunity to improve fee-based income in the
near term, Fitch expects that mid-tier banks will continue to face greater
earnings headwinds in 2013 than larger institutions with greater revenue
diversification.

Share repurchases is common theme amongst the mid-tier banks. As mid-tier
banks face earnings headwinds, institutions have begun repurchasing common
shares to improve shareholder returns. Fitch anticipates continued repurchase
activity in 2013 as the return on equity lags historical norms for the group.

In addition to share repurchases, Fitch has observed that some mid-tier banks
have looked to their investment portfolio to improve returns. Most notably,
CLOs and CMBS have become more popular amongst mid-tier banks. Although such
securities are beneficial to yields and returns, Fitch notes that such
purchases can be a negative ratings driver if the risks are not properly
measured, monitored and controlled.

Asset quality continues to improve throughout the banking sector. Both
nonperforming assets (NPAs) and net charge-offs (NCOs) are down significantly
year over year. Fitch anticipates further asset quality improvement as
nonperforming loan (NPL) inflow slows. Reserve levels have also declined as
asset quality improves, which has been beneficial to earnings in 2013. Fitch
expects further reserve releases in 2013 but at a slower pace.

RATING ACTION AND RATIONALE

Hancock Holding Company's (HBHC) ratings were affirmed at 'BBB+'. The Outlook
remains Stable. Fitch's rating action is reflective of HBHC's conservative
operating philosophy, satisfactory operating performance, and good capital
ratios. Given that HBHC has over the last couple of years been focused on
integrating the operations of Whitney Holding Corporation into its operations,
Fitch believes that HBHC's franchise has been enhanced through a more
diversified loan portfolio, incremental opportunities for growth, as well as
the ability to cross-sell additional products to existing customers.

Additionally, Fitch believes that the continued integration will afford HBHC
the opportunity to realize additional cost savings which should provide a
modest boost to earnings. Fitch would note, however, that a more meaningful
pickup in earnings generation is predicated on significant loan growth and
cross-selling, both of which Fitch believes are more intermediate term to
potentially longer-term opportunities.

RATING DRIVERS AND SENSITIVITIES - IDRs and VRs

Fitch believes there is limited upside potential to HBHC's ratings or Rating
Outlook should the company continue to improve profitability over a very
extended period through both cost savings as well as loan growth, all while
maintaining good capital ratios. Risks to the ratings include the pursuit of
another large acquisition, or if Fitch were to surmise that the company was
reducing pricing and terms and conditions to win large amounts of new
business, which could impact profitability and credit costs over time.

RATING DRIVERS AND SENSITIVITIES - Support Ratings and Support Floor Ratings:

All of the mid-tier regional banks in the peer group have Support Ratings of
'5' and Support Floor Ratings of 'NF'. In Fitch's view, the mid-tier banks are
not considered systemically important and therefore, Fitch believes the
probability of support is unlikely. IDRs and VRs do not incorporate any
government support for any of the banks in the mid-tier regional bank peer
group.

RATING DRIVERS AND SENSITIVITIES - Subordinated Debt and Other Hybrid
Securities:

Subordinated debt and hybrid capital instruments issued by the banks are
notched down from the issuers' VRs in accordance with Fitch's assessment of
each instrument's respective non-performance and relative loss severity risk
profiles, which vary considerably. The ratings of subordinated debt and hybrid
securities are sensitive to any change in the banks' VRs or to changes in the
banks' propensity to make coupon payments that are permitted but not
compulsory under the instruments' documentation.

RATING DRIVERS AND SENSITIVITIES - Holding Company:

All of the entities reviewed in the mid-tier regional bank group have a bank
holding company structure with the bank as the main subsidiary. All
subsidiaries are considered core to parent holding company supporting
equalized ratings between bank subsidiaries and bank holding companies. IDRs
and VRs are equalized with those of its operating companies and banks
reflecting its role as the bank holding company, which is mandated in the U.S.
to act as a source of strength for its bank subsidiaries.

RATING DRIVERS AND SENSITIVITIES - Subsidiary and Affiliated Company Rating:

All of the entities reviewed in the mid-tier regional bank group factor in a
high probability of support from parent institutions to its subsidiaries. This
reflects the fact that performing parent banks have very rarely allowed
subsidiaries to default. It also considers the high level of integration,
brand, management, financial and reputational incentives to avoid subsidiary
defaults.

Fitch has affirmed the following ratings:

Hancock Holding Company

--Long-term IDR at 'BBB+'; Stable Outlook;

--Short-term IDR at 'F2';

--Viability at 'bbb+';

--Support at '5';

--Support floor at 'NF'.

Hancock Bank

--Long-term IDR at 'BBB+'; Stable Outlook;

--Long-term deposits at 'A-';

--Short-term deposits at 'F1';

--Short-term IDR at 'F2';

--Viability at 'bbb+';

--Support at '5';

--Support floor at 'NF'.

Whitney Bank

--Long term IDR at 'BBB+'; Stable Outlook;

--Short-term IDR at 'F2';

--Long-term deposits at 'A-';

--Short-term Deposits at 'F1';

--Subordinated debt at 'BBB';

--Viability at 'bbb+'.

--Support at '5'

--Support Floor at 'NF'

Additional information is available at www.fitchratings.com. The ratings were
unsolicited and have been provided by Fitch as a service to investors.

In addition to the source(s) of information identified in Fitch's Master
Criteria, these actions were additionally informed by information provided by
the companies.

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

--'Risk Radar' (Jan. 16, 2013);

--'U.S. Banks: Rationalizing the Branch Network (Witness the Incredible
Shrinking Branch Network)' (Sept. 17, 2012);

--'U.S. Banks: Mortgage Representations and Warranties (Banks Increase
Reserves; Uncertainty Remains)' (Aug. 20, 2012)

--'Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria' (Aug. 15, 2012);

--'Rating FI Subsidiaries and Holding Companies' (Aug. 10, 2012);

--'Treatment of Unrealized Losses in U.S. Bank Capital Rule Proposal
(Pro-Cyclical Capital Policy to Create Greater Capital Volatility for Banks)'
(Aug. 7, 2012);

--'Basel III: Return and Deleveraging Pressures' (May 17, 2012);

--'Assessing and Rating Bank Subordinated and Hybrid Securities' (Dec. 05,
2012).

Applicable Criteria and Related Research:

Risk Radar Update

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=699014

U.S. Banks: Rationalizing the Branch Network (Witness the Incredible Shrinking
Branch Network)

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=688330

U.S. Banks: Mortgage Representations and Warranties (Banks Increase Reserves;
Uncertainty Remains)

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=684038

Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=686181

Rating FI Subsidiaries and Holding Companies

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=679209

Treatment of Unrealized Losses in U.S. Bank Capital Rule Proposal
(Pro-Cyclical Capital Policy to Create Greater Capital Volatility for Banks)

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=685638

Basel III: Return and Deleveraging Pressures

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=678273

Assessing and Rating Bank Subordinated and Hybrid Securities

http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=695542

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Contact:

Fitch Ratings
Primary Analyst:
Justin Fuller, CFA, +1-312-268-2057
Director
Fitch Ratings, Inc.
70 West Madison Street
Chicago, IL 60602
or
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Associate Director
or
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