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One Valley, BB&T merger 'right fit'

by Paul Leakan

STAFF WRITER

One Valley Bank will merge with a North Carolina-based firm in a $1.2 billion stock swap, officials announced Monday.

BB&T, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., will acquire One Valley Bancorp, Inc. to create the nation's 18th largest financial institution.

"We knew immediately that culturally this was the right fit for our employees, our customers and our owners and the communities that we serve," said J. Holmes Morrison, chairman, president and chief executive officer of One Valley Bancorp, Inc.

The transaction has already been approved by the directors of both companies. It also must be approved by One Valley Bank shareholders and banking regulators.

During a teleconference Monday afternoon, BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Allison touted the deal as a great move for both companies.

"We think (that) while there's always some challenges in change, this merger's a partnership where the two of us are better together than we could ever be apart," he said.

Allison compared the merger to a marriage.

"For it to work for one partner, it has to work for both partners," he said.

But one of the main concerns some may have in that "marriage" is the looming possibility of staff reductions.

Officials from both One Valley and BB&T, however, said that job reductions would likely be few in the long-term.

"When we get through, we expect job levels to be fairly similar to what it is now," Allison said.

Allison and Morrison both said they believe employment could actually increase sometime in the future.

BB&T officials said the company will provide 150 to 200 new jobs in the Charleston area to minimize the effect of other staff reductions.

BB&T will also create three community bank regions in West Virginia and one in central Virginia.

Officials also believe the deal should benefit One Valley's current customers and the community they live in.

Among other reasons, officials cited the $10 million trust fund that will be established for charitable contributions and economic development in communities served by One Valley. The money would be combined with One Valley's existing $4 million trust fund.

Morrison also pointed out how BB&T spent $212 million on electronic commerce technology on the Internet.

"That's simply not a commitment that we could make," he said. "But the beauty of it is that One Valley's customers and employees will benefit from that kind of technology spending going forward."

The merger is expected to be completed sometime in the third quarter. One Valley, with $6.6 billion in assets, is the parent company to nine community banks and 123 branches. That includes 76 in West Virginia and 47 in central Virginia.

BB&T, with assets of $45.5 billion, operates 687 banking offices in the North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky and Washington, D.C.

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