Wachovia Corp. announced an agreement Wednesday to acquire Partners First Holdings, a deal that would close the book on an attempt by midsize credit card banks to pool resources to remain competitive.

Wachovia Bank Card Services of Atlanta said it would pay a premium of about $175 million, or 8.3%, for $1.99 billion of receivables and 1.2 million accounts from Partners First, which is principally owned by Bank of Montreal and its Chicago-based affiliate Harris Bankcorp. The Wachovia unit, which with $6.3 billion of managed loans ranks 12th in the bank card industry, said it would jump to 10th - a symbolically important place in a business increasingly defined by economies of scale - by increasing its card loans 32%.

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