Continuing its strategy of expanding into neighboring high-growth territories, Montgomery, Ala.-based Colonial BancGroup said it will buy community banks in Florida and Georgia.

In the two stock deals announced last week, Colonial signed a letter of intent to buy Orlando-based Southern Banking Corp. for $50 million, and agreed to purchase Commercial Bancorp of Georgia for $46 million.

Southern, which has $225 million of assets and seven offices in central Florida, represents Colonial's first venture into the Sunshine State. Southern Banking's subsidiary, Southern Bank of Central Florida, is the largest independent bank left in the Orlando area, with eight branches, a residential mortgage division, and 106 employees.

Commercial Bancorp has $226 million of assets and seven offices in Atlanta's northern and eastern suburbs. Colonial ventured into Georgia for the first time 10 months ago with the acquisition of a suburban Atlanta thrift.

Colonial has $3.6 billion of assets.

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