SCHAUMBURG, Ill. - Banking and finance continued as the most active sector for mergers and acquisitions in the second quarter, according to the business brokerage and valuation division of Merrill Lynch & Co.

While the number of mergers announced in the quarter rose 44% from the year-earlier level, to 716, mergers among banks and other financial companies jumped 75%, to 77. And the value of banking and finance deals rose 89%, to $4.8 billion.

Six of the 15 largest transactions announced were in the banking and finance category, led by the proposed acquisition of Valley National Corp. by Banc One Corp. and of Star Banc Corp. by Fifth Third Bancorp. Those two deals were valued at $1.1 billion each; the Star deal ultimately fell through.

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