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Ameris Bancorp Buys Two Georgia Lenders as Failures Climb to 55

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July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Ameris Bancorp, the Moultrie, Georgia-based lender with $2.97 billion in assets, bought two banks seized by regulators in its home state as this year’s tally of U.S. failures climbed to 55.

Ameris purchased the deposits and operations of High Trust Bank and One Georgia Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said today on its website. Florida officials also closed First Peoples Bank of Port Saint Lucie and an Arizona regulator seized Summit Bank in Prescott. The four failures drained about $129 million from the FDIC deposit-insurance fund.

Regulators have shuttered more than 370 lenders since the start of 2008 as commercial and residential real estate loans soured, putting pressure on banks. Home prices fell 4 percent in April from a year earlier, the biggest drop in 17 months for the S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities.

“We’re still looking at a pretty high rate of failures this year,” Bert Ely, a banking consultant in Alexandria, Virginia, said in an interview before today’s bank closings. “The big unknown is how many of the banks on the problem bank list will fail and when will they fail.”

Ameris acquired about $192 million in assets from Stockbridge, Georgia-based High Trust Bank and $186 million from Atlanta-based One Georgia Bank, the FDIC said. The three branches of the failed banks will reopen tomorrow as branches of Ameris, according to a statement.

Premier American Bank of Miami picked up the six branches of First Peoples Bank, which had $228.3 million in assets as of March 31, according to the FDIC.

Foothills Bank in Yuma, Arizona, agreed to pay a premium of 0.25 percent to acquire $66.4 million in deposits from Summit Bank, the FDIC said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Noah Buhayar in Los Angeles at nbuhayar@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scheer at dscheer@bloomberg.net.

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