Bancorp Hawaii said it has reached an agreement with France's Credit Lyonnais to acquire majority stakes in Banque de Tahiti and Banque de Nouvelle Caledonie, adding two more links to its growing South Pacific network.

The holding company for Bank of Hawaii said it was awaiting regulators' approval to increase its shareholding in Banque de Tahiti to 86% from 38% and in Banque de Nouvelle Caledonie to 75% from 21%.

The bank will pay $53 million for the increased shareholdings to Credit Lyonnais, which will retain a 3% stake in each bank. The balance of the shares are held by private investors.

As part of the acquisition, the Honolulu-based bank will also purchase the majority shareholding in the respective banks' subsidiary finance companies, Credipac Polynesie and Credipac Nouvelle Caledonie.

Chairman and chief executive Lawrence M. Johnson noted that his bank has been involved with Banque de Tahiti since 1969 and Banque de Nouvelle Caledonie since 1974 and is familiar with the two banks' markets and customer needs.

"This purchase, which would give us majority shareholding in two major South Pacific markets, fits in with our long-term strategy of diversification in the Pacific," Mr. Johnson said.

Analysts said the move was a logical extension of Bancorp Hawaii's long- term strategy for building up its presence across the Pacific. "That's where they see the economic growth taking place," said Lawrence R. Vitale, with Bear, Stearns & Co. "It's a strategy that makes sense because they've got a niche related to both trade finance and economic development in that part of the world and they're trying to solidify their position."

Bancorp Hawaii said the transaction, expected to close in the second quarter, would add around 5% to annualized 1996 earnings.

Banque de Tahiti, based in the Tahitian capital of Papeete, has assets of approximately $800 million, 16 branches on all of the major islands in French Polynesia, and two representative offices. It has a staff of 220.

Banque de Nouvelle Caledonie, based in Noumea, New Caledonia, has assets of approximately $230 million, five branches, and a staff of 82. Existing management and staff will be retained, Mr. Johnson said.

Bank of Hawaii, the main operating unit of Bancorp Hawaii, is the Aloha State's largest bank. It holds extensive equity stakes in banks across the South Pacific and is the only U.S.-based financial institution operating in a market largely dominated by French and Australian banks.

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