In its biggest acquisition ever, Boatmen's Bancshares on Thursday said it agreed to buy Worthen Banking Corp. for $595 million in stock, a pricey two times book for Arkansas' largest retail bank.

Analysts greeted the merger announcement cautiously, saying that Boatmen's would have to quickly produce cost-savings to prove that the transaction will not dilute earnings. But they also said the deal for $3.5 billion-asset Worthen gives Boatmen's the dominant position in Arkansas and boosts the case for continued expansion into the Sunbelt.

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