ATLANTA -- Amsouth Bancorp., Alabama's largest bank company, said Tuesday it will buy Citizens National Corp. in Naples, Fla., for $48.8 million in stock.

The move will give Amsouth another $289.6 million of assets in Florida, a state in which it has been expanding aggressively.

Amsouth now has six acquisitions pending in Florida. When they are completed, the company's $1.2 billion-asset bank in the Sunshine State will more than double to $3.5 billion of assets.

|Going Rate'

Amsouth agreed to pay a hefty price for Citizens National -- 2.74 times adjusted book value. But analysts suggested that the bank's attractive location and good market performance justified the deal.

Citizens National earned $1.6 million in the first six months, representing a 1.11% return on assets.

"It's the going rate" for strong banks, said Kathryn Bissette of Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc. in Atlanta.

Shares of Amsouth, an $11.1 billion-asset institution with a presence in Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia, were up 12 1/2 cents Tuesday afternoon.

John W. Woods, Amsouth's chairman and chief executive, said the purchase of Citizens National will complement its pending acquisition of a bank in Fort Myers on Florida's southwest coast, which is one of the state's fastest-growing areas. And he hinted that more deals in the area are on the way.

The acquisitions "provide us with a strong nucleus to build an even stronger southwest Florida banking franchise," Mr. Woods said in a prepared statement.

Thrift in Its Sights?

In a related development, the stock of Fortune Bancorp, a thrift in Clearwater with $3 billion of assets, has been active on speculation about a takeover by Amsouth or another bank. Since early April, its stock has risen from $18.50 a share to over $23.

John R. Torell 3d, the chairman of Fortune, said in a recent interview that the reviving company wants to expand along the West Coast.

But he also repeated on Tuesday that his company is obligated to talk to any potential acquirer that would increase value for current shareholders. He would not comment specifically on Amsouth or any other company.

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