Iberiabank Corp. is getting back to its Louisiana roots.

The company, which many observers believe made a failed run at Whitney Holding Co. in New Orleans, agreed Tuesday to buy the much smaller Omni Bancshares in Metairie. It would be Iberiabank's first deal in Louisiana in seven years and its first unassisted bank purchase since 2007. Most of its recent deals have been in Arkansas, Florida and Alabama.

Analysts said the Lafayette, La., company's dealmaking elsewhere is not an sign of neglect in the bayou, where its organic growth has been strong. With Hancock Holding Co. of Gulfport, Miss., having agreed to buy Whitney Holding, it makes sense for Iberiabank to increase its foothold and defend its stake, observers said.

"Had they not done this deal they still would be a beneficiary to this disruption caused by the Hancock-Whitney deal, but this gives them a better platform to go after market share," said Peyton Green, an analyst at Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. "It makes it more important for Hancock to do a good integration."

Michael Brown, Iberiabank's vice chairman and chief operating officer, said in an interview Thursday that Omni was not in reaction to Whitney's pending sale. He said the timing could help Iberiabank take advantage of any dislocation.

"New Orleans has been very successful for us on the commercial and private business side, but we haven't been able to take it and explode it further," Brown said. "We would have done this combination regardless" of the Hancock-Whitney deal, "but that deal does create icing on the cake."

The $40 million stock deal for Omni, priced at 1.3 times tangible book value, would roughly double Iberiabank's branches around New Orleans to 21. The company said it needs two to four more branches to build out New Orleans. Buying the $735 million-asset Omni, would make Iberiabank, now the ninth-largest deposit holder in New Orleans, the fifth-largest, based on June 30 data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

In a Tuesday conference call, Daryl Byrd, Iberiabank's president and CEO, said Omni would get his company closer to a goal of dominating the Big Easy. "Our goal is clearly and simply to be the most significant bank in the New Orleans community," he said.

Several observers said the company also pursued the $11.5 billion-asset Whitney. In a Jan. 26 regulatory filing, Whitney detailed a four-month courtship with a suitor identified as "Company A" that was passed over by a late-to-the-game $1.5 billion offer from Hancock.

Iberiabank would not confirm that it was Company A.

While Whitney would have transformed Iberiabank, Omni would make it more diverse. Iberiabank's dealings in New Orleans focus on private banking and middle-market clients banking. Omni adds more small-business deposits and retail deposits.

"If you want to be the most significant bank I think you would want to bank small-business customers," Green said.

Omni has some blemishes. At Dec. 31 its bank's nonperforming assets made up 7% of total assets and it had a 4.5% tangible common equity ratio. Analysts generally view tangible common equity ratios below 5% as problematic.

Omni's issues largely stem from a focus in one-to-four-family residential loans made after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Iberiabank's experience with failed banks should prove useful, analysts said.

"Management has a strong foothold in terms of loan workouts and the integration of Omni," Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst David Bishop said in a research note.

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