BB&T Insurance Services today said it plans to buy Iler Wall & Shonter Insurance Inc. of St. Petersburg , Fla. The acquisition would give the nation's sixth largest insurance broker its second agency in the Sunshine State .

The announcement comes three months after BB&T Corporation (NYSE: BBT) said it would buy Republic Bancshares Inc. of St. Petersburg for $436 million.

"Part of our strategy, of course, is to follow the bank into new markets," said Wade Reece, president of BB&T Insurance Services. "But the primary reason for this acquisition is the fact that both companies share identical values systems in terms of total dedication to clients and employees.

"Our size and position in the industry combined with their knowledge of Florida insurance issues makes this an excellent partnership in a very strong market."

The Iler Wall & Shonter transaction is expected to be completed in April. Terms were not disclosed.

With 73 employees, Iler Wall & Shonter is a full-service agency specializing in commercial property and casualty insurance; personal property and liability; employee benefits; and life insurance and financial planning.

It was created in 1995 with the merger of the Iler and Wall and Shonter and Shonter insurance agencies. Iler Wall & Shonter generated more than $75 million in premiums in 2003.

Principal owners Rick Iler, Kipp Wall, Rick Shonter and Claire Shonter will remain with the combined agency in management roles. Iler Wall & Shonter shareholders Susan Antekeire, Jeff Busch, Jack Coggeshall and Al Klutts will remain in their current sales roles.

"With the tremendous growth our agency has experienced in recent years, this is a superb opportunity to build on that growth and move to the next level in terms of production and financial results," said Iler, president of Iler Wall & Shonter. "But most importantly, this partnership is about doing what's best for our valued employees and clients. Both companies truly believe in treating our employees and clients in a caring and respectful manner."

BB&T Insurance Services completed its first Florida acquisition (Landrum- Yaeger & Associates Inc. of Tallahassee ) in November 2002. BB&T Corp. is expected to complete its acquisition of Republic Bancshares in mid-April. With $2.8 billion in assets, Republic operates 71 banking offices along the Gulf Coast and in central and southern Florida .

Raleigh-based BB&T Insurance Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Branch Banking and Trust Company, operates 72 agencies in North Carolina , Virginia , Georgia , South Carolina , Maryland , West Virginia , Tennessee , Florida , Kentucky and Alabama .

Source: BB&T Insurance Services

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