Farm Credit Bank merger gets shareholders' OK


Stockholders of the Farm Credit Bank of Baltimore yesterday approved a consolidation with a sister institution in Columbia, S.C., that will result in the closing of its Baltimore County headquarters and the loss of 100 area jobs.

The merger of the state's largest agriculture lender with the Farm Credit Bank of Columbia will form a $10 billion institution serving farmers in 15 states and Puerto Rico. It will be based in Columbia.

Operations of the local bank will cease on April 1, the effective date of the merger, assuming approval by regulators, said Reider J. White, a bank spokesman. But its affiliated associations, the offices that actually make the loans, and their dozen branch offices in Maryland will not be affected.

The consolidation, which was announced in August and also approved yesterday by the South Carolina bank's shareholders, is to save between $6 million and $7.5 million in annual operating expenses.

The local bank had 160 workers last year, but 40 accepted an early retirement offer. Of the remaining 120 workers, only about a dozen will be offered jobs with the new bank, said Mr. White.

Mr. White said the bank's three-story building and the surrounding 120 acres of land -- one of the largest existing office properties to come on the market in the Baltimore area in the past five years -- will be sold.

The bank has served agriculture interests in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and Puerto Rico since World War I.

The new bank, to be called AgFirst Farm Credit Bank, will have assets of $10.1 billion. Outstanding loans to more than 120,000 farmers, ranchers, agribusiness and rural home buyers will total $8 billion

The Baltimore bank is the smaller of the two lenders. With assets of $3.75 billion, it had outstanding loans totaling $3.2 billion at the end of the quarter ended Sept. 30.

At the same time, the Columbia bank reported outstanding loans of about $5.06 billion and total assets of $6.3 billion.

For the first nine months of 1994, the Baltimore bank had earnings of $31.2 million, excluding a restructuring charge related to the merger, down from $31.4 million in the same period in 1993. It has not yet reported earnings for the year.

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