Bank United Corp. has agreed to take over 50 supermarket bank branches in Texas that BankAmerica Corp. plans to close in April.
The $14.8 billion-asset Bank United of Houston said it has entered into a long-term lease with Kroger Co. to operate the in-store branches in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas.
Bank United, the biggest thrift in Texas and eighth-largest in the country, now has 78 traditional and 12 supermarket branches.
BankAmerica is shutting the branches April 9 as part of a previously announced closing of 111 Texas offices. The other 61 branches being closed are traditional offices. The Charlotte, N.C., company, which resulted from the merger of NationsBank Corp. and the old BankAmerica last fall, cited geographical overlaps and said its contract with Kroger was expiring.
The new BankAmerica has a supermarket banking contract with a Kroger competitor, Albertson's Inc.
Bank United said it would spend $2.6 million to reopen the branches. The thrift is not gaining any customers or assets. It plans to hire 300 people.
BankAmerica is transferring its customers' accounts to other branches. Bank United is hoping to attract some of these customers, who might want to continue banking where they shop.
"We think there are loyal Kroger shoppers who bank there because of convenience," said Ron Coben, executive vice president and head of retail banking at Bank United.
BankAmerica, on the other hand, does not intend to lose customers, said spokeswoman Pam McQuitty.
Bank United, which tries to attract customers by distinguishing itself from the out-of-state banking giants that are the largest in Texas, still thinks it has a chance. "We don't have to make what's right for the California customer fit the Texas customer," Mr. Coben said.
Bank United hopes to gain about $200 million of deposits, or about $4 million per branch, from the Kroger offices in the first year. The company told analysts the offices would be profitable after one year.
Thomas O'Donnell, an analyst at Salomon Smith Barney, said he favors the Bank United plan.
"It's hard to find consumer banking opportunities, especially when you're a savings and loan," Mr. O'Donnell said. "When you get an opportunity like this, you should jump at it."