Here's a riddle for accounting buffs: How much did First Union really pay for Georgia Federal Bank last week?

The answer depends on whom you ask. First Union says the amount is $153 million. First Financial Management Corp., the seller, insists it will actually receive $268 million.

The controversy has to do with $115 million that will be disbursed to First Financial from Georgia Federal as a "dividend" on top of the $153 million purchase price. In First Union's view, the dividend represents a share of the proceeds from an earlier sale of Georgia Federal's consumer finance subsidiary - and not a direct payment for the thrift itself.

Not so, said Don Sharp, a senior vice president at First Financial. The 115 million, he asserted, was an arbitrary figure arrived at during the negotiations to make up the total $268 million that First Financial wanted.

"What was left in Georgia Federal after selling the subsidiary was worth $268 million," he said.

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