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First Financial, MainSource boards agree to merger

First Financial Bank is shown on Broadway in Crown Point.

First Financial Bancorp., which operates seven branches in Lake County, has the OK to purchase MainSource Financial Group, which would broaden its footprint in Indiana.

Cincinnati-based First Financial Bank plans to spend $1 billion to buy the 110-year-old MainSource Bank. The Greensburg, Indiana-based financial institution operates more than 94 branches in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

First Financial and MainSource boards approved the deal, which is expected to close next year if it gets the required regulatory approvals. The bigger bank will end up with $13.3 billion in assets, $10 billion in deposits, $8.9 billion in loans and $4 billion in assets under management.

"Upon closing of the merger, the banking subsidiaries of each will also merge, with First Financial Bank as the surviving entity," First Financial said in a press release. "The MainSource branches will continue to operate under the name 'MainSource Bank' until the conversion of the operating systems, anticipated to occur in the second quarter of 2018."

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The adviser Glass, Lewis & Co. recommended the merger.

"We find the proposed merger both strategically and financially compelling, at a fair and reasonable valuation for First Financial shareholders," MainSource said in a statement. "The merger strengthens and expands the Company's presence and franchise in a complementary manner and presents the opportunity to achieve cost savings and efficiencies."

Combined, the companies stand to achieve greater scale, operational diversity, efficiencies and growth than the company could likely realize on its own in the short to medium term, MainSource said in a statement. "As a result, the merger is likely, in our view, to lead to enhanced financial performance and ultimately superior shareholder value once these expected benefits are realized."

Locally, First Financial operates branches in Crown Point, Highland, Hammond and Schererville.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.