Bank of the West, owned by Banque Nationale de Paris Group, agreed last week to acquire Essex Credit Corp., a specialty finance operation in Connecticut.

Terms were not disclosed.

The deal came as regional banking companies such as BankAmerica Corp. are selling their specialty finance operations.

Don McGrath, Bank of the West's president and chief executive officer, said buying Essex will add to his bank's nationwide presence in consumer marine finance. Essex specializes in financing pleasure boats and recreational vehicles in 11 U.S. markets, including San Francisco and Newport Beach, Calif.; Seattle; Houston; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Annapolis, Md.; and Amityville, N.Y.

Bank of the West has done business with Essex since 1992.

Sixteen-year-old Essex, which generated $285 million of consumer loans in 1996, will continue to be operated by Gene Schiavone, chairman and CEO, and Alan Swimmer, president and chief operating officer.

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