The Barnett-First Florida merger pact provides fresh evidence that potential buyers will have to pay top dollar to find partners in states with few remaining independent banks.

"Barnett's move and the price being paid show the sense of urgency being felt by big acquirers to build a presence in some of these areas while the opportunities last," said Francis X. Suozzo of S.G. Warburg & Co., New York. (See related article on page 2.)

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