Fitch Affirms Hancock Holding Co's Ratings at 'BBB'/'F2' Following Peer Review; Outlook Stable

  Fitch Affirms Hancock Holding Co's Ratings at 'BBB'/'F2' Following Peer   Review; Outlook Stable  Business Wire  NEW YORK -- February 5, 2014  Fitch Ratings has affirmed the ratings of Hancock Holding Company's (HBHC) at 'BBB+'/'F2'. The Rating Outlook remains Stable. The affirmation and Stable Outlook reflect HBHC's solid franchise, good asset quality and earnings in line with its rating category. A full list of rating actions is at the end of this rating action commentary.  KEY RATING DRIVERS - IDRS, VRs, AND SENIOR DEBT  Asset quality improved during 2013 and remains in line with its rated peers. Fitch calculated NPAs declined by approximately 100bps while net charge-offs (NCOs) showed modest declines from 2012. Fitch expects continued reductions to NPA levels in the near term and credit costs to remain in line with its rated peer group.  Earnings performance historically has been a rating weakness for the company. However, HBHC's earnings improved considerably in 2013 and now rank in the middle of the peer group. Fitch believes that HBHC has the capacity to continue to improve earnings as continued integration with the Whitney Bank acquisition will allow the company to realize cost savings over the near- to medium-term. Further earnings improvement could lead to positive ratings pressure.  Capital levels are relatively flat year over year despite HBHC's share repurchase program. Fitch expects HBHC to manage its capital position near its current level. Should capital levels be managed at materially lower levels, HBHC's ratings would be revisited.  RATING SENSITIVITIES - IDRS, VRs, AND SENIOR DEBT  Fitch believes there is upside potential to HBHC's ratings as core profitability improves. Positive ratings momentum assumes a stable risk profile, lower NPAs and relatively stable capital levels. 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.  KEY RATING DRIVERS - SUBORDINATED DEBT AND OTHER HYBRID SECURITIES  HBHC's subordinated debt is notched below its Viability rating (VR) to reflect loss severity and an assessment of incremental non-performance risk.  RATING SENSITIVITIES - SUBORDINATED DEBT AND OTHER HYBRID SECURITIES  HBHC's subordinated debt rating is sensitive to changes in HBHC's VR. Rating sensitivities for the VR are listed above.  SUBSIDIARY AND AFFILIATED COMPANY KEY RATING DRIVERS  HBHC's subsidiaries' ratings are aligned with the company, which reflects Fitch's view that the bank subsidiary is core to the franchise.  SUBSIDIARY AND AFFILIATED COMPANY RATING SENSITIVITIES  HBHC's subsidiaries ratings are sensitive to changes to HBHC's VR or any changes to Fitch's view of structural subordination between bank subsidiary and holding company. Rating sensitivities for the VR are listed above.  KEY RATING DRIVERS - SUPPORT RATING AND SUPPORT RATING FLOOR  HBHC's Support Rating and Support Rating Floor of '5' and 'NF' reflect Fitch's view that the company is unlikely to procure extraordinary support should such support be needed.  KEY RATING SENSITIVITIES- SUPPORT RATING AND SUPPORT RATING FLOOR  HBHC's Support Rating and Support Rating Floor are sensitive to Fitch's assumption as to ability to procure extraordinary support in case of need.  Fitch reviewed HBHC's ratings as part of the mid-tier regional bank review. The 19 banks in today's review include: Associated Banc-Corp (ASBC), BOK Financial Corp (BOKF), Cathay General Bancorp (CATY), City National Bancorp (CYN),Cullen/Frost Bankers, Inc (CFR), East West Bancorp, Inc. (EWBC), First Horizon National Corp (FHN), First National of Nebraska, Inc. (FNNI), First Niagara Financial Group, Inc. (FNFG), First Republic Bank (FRC), First Merit (FMER), Fulton Financial Corp (FULT), Hancock Holding Company (HBHC), People's United Financial, Inc. (PBCT), Synovus Financial Corp (SNV), TCF Financial Corp (TCB), UMB Financial Corporation (UMB), Webster Financial Corp (WBS), Wintrust (WTFC).  Fitch has affirmed the following ratings with a Stable Outlook:  Hancock Holding Company  --Long-term Issuer Default Rating (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'.  Applicable Criteria and Related Research:  2014 Outlook: U.S. Banks (Nov 21, 2013)  U.S. Banks: Liquidity and Deposit Funding (Aug 08, 2013)  U.S. Banks: Interest Rate Risks (What Happens When Rates Rise) (Jun 18, 2013)  U.S. Bank Mergers and Acquisitions -- When Will The Catalysts Kick In? (Jul 11, 2013)  Global Trading and Universal Banks - Periodic Review (Dec 12, 2013)  Fitch Fundamentals Index - U.S.; Index Trend Analysis 4Q13 (Jan15, 2014)  Risk Radar Global - Q313 (Sep 05, 2013)  Fitch Global Corporate Rating Activity - Third Quarter 2013 (Dec 5, 2013)  U.S. Banking Quarterly Comment: 4Q13 (Earnings Continue to Tick Up, but Challenges Remain) (Jan 27, 2014)  Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria (Jan 31, 2014)  Assessing and Rating Bank Subordinated and Hybrid Securities (Jan 31, 2014)  Applicable Criteria and Related Research:  Assessing and Rating Bank Subordinated and Hybrid Securities Criteria  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=732137  Global Financial Institutions Rating Criteria  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=732397  U.S. Banking Quarterly Comment: 4Q13 (Earnings Continue to Tick Up, but Challenges Remain)  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=732295  Fitch Global Corporate Rating Activity - Third-Quarter 2013  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=720480  Risk Radar Global - Q313  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=717023  Global Trading and Universal Banks - Periodic Review  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=726150  U.S. Bank Mergers and Acquisitions -- When Will The Catalysts Kick In?  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=712539  U.S. Banks: Interest Rate Risks (What Happens When Rates Rise)  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=710875  U.S. Banks: Liquidity and Deposit Funding  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=714196  2014 Outlook: U.S. Banks  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=723989  Fitch Fundamentals Index  http://www.fitchratings.com/creditdesk/reports/report_frame.cfm?rpt_id=729196  Additional Disclosure  Solicitation Status  http://www.fitchratings.com/gws/en/disclosure/solicitation?pr_id=819716  ALL FITCH CREDIT RATINGS ARE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN LIMITATIONS AND DISCLAIMERS. 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