EL DORADO, Ark. -- First United Bancshares here has reached a definitive agreement to acquire Commerce Financial Corp. for $3.3 million.

First United, Arkansas' fourth-largest banking company, will also repay about $1.5 million of Commerce Financial's debt.

Commerce Financial operates Commercial Bank of Alma, which has $41 million of assets and two branches.

John Burns, a First United spokesman, said Commercial Bank's location in western Arkansas will complement the company's existing operations. " It's a profitable, solid financial institution," he said.

In the first six months of the year, Commercial Bank earned $205,000 and has a 1% return on average assets.

First United operates four banks in the state and earned $6.3 million in the first half, 24% more than in the year-earlier period. The company had a 1.44% return on average assets and a 15.31% return on average equity. Shareholder equity grew to $87.1 million, up 9.4% from $79.6 million last Dec. 31.

Mr. Burns said the company will continue to look for acquisitions.

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