Some of the most dramatic bank consolidation activity in 1996 took place in the Midwest.

Foremost was NationsBank Corp. and its startling $9.5 billion merger with Boatmen's Bancshares of St. Louis. The deal was the product of a fierce bidding war between many suitors and further cemented the Charlotte, N.C., company's claim to being a truly national bank.

Stephens Inc., Little Rock advised NationsBank, and Goldman, Sachs & Co., New York, advised Boatmen's.

But NationsBank's merger wasn't the only Midwest deal to make news in 1996. ABN Amro Holdings NV of the Netherlands caused a stir when it bought Standard Federal Bancorp., the Michigan thrift, for $1.9 billion.

Since then, Allied Irish Bank has bought Dauphin Deposit Corp., Harrisburg, Pa., prompting some analysts and investment bankers to expect that other foreign bank companies will seek to expand their presence in the U.S.

Morgan Stanley & Co., New York, advised ABN Amro, and CS First Boston Corp. and Merrill Lynch & Co. advised Standard Federal.

Earlier in the year, ABN Amro bought Comerica Bank of Illinois for $190 million and CNBC Bancorp, also of Illinois, for $132 million. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette advised Comerica, and Lazard Freres & Co. advised CNBC.

Mercantile Bancorp. also made a splash with two acquisitions in quick succession that investment bankers believe will ultimately make the St. Louis company more attractive for purchase by another bank.

In October, Mercantile announced it would buy Roosevelt Bancorp., the St. Louis-area thrift, for $1.07 million, and in December said it would purchase Mark Twain Bancshares, also of St. Louis, for $855 million. UBS Securities advised Mercantile on both deals. Montgomery Securities and Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. co-advised Roosevelt, and Morgan Stanley advised Mark Twain.

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