ST. LOUIS - Allegiant Bancorp announced late Wednesday that it plans to acquire Equality Bancorp for $24.3 million of stock.

The merger of the St. Louis companies would create Missouri's 10th-largest banking company, with more than $1.1 billion of assets. The combined company would have 23 branches and more than $800 million of deposits in greater St. Louis.

Equality is the parent of Equality Savings Bank, one of Missouri's oldest thrifts. The $329 million-asset company revealed in a statement last week that it was considering a merger to enhance shareholder value.

Equality shareholders would receive 1.18 shares of Allegiant stock for each share owned. The deal is expected to close this year.

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