Continuing its push into California, First Banks Inc. of St. Louis has agreed to buy Century Bank of Beverly Hills for an undisclosed sum.

First Banks, with $4.5 billion of assets, said it would pay cash for Century, which is owned by Philippine National Bank. Century has $180 million of assets and six branches.

Benjamin Palma-Gil, president and chief executive officer of Philippine National, said it is enthusiastic about California's future and Century Bank's prospects but that the economic problems plaguing Pacific Rim countries "make it desirable to redeploy our investment in Century Bank."

The deal, expected to close in the third quarter, would boost First Banks' California assets to nearly $1.4 billion. Last month the company completed a deal for Redwood Bancorp, a $179 million-asset San Francisco banking company.

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