A Pennsylvania bank is planning its third Florida acquisition this year.

F.N.B. Corp., based in Hermitage, said this week that it will acquire $70.2 million-asset Indian Rocks State Bank, Largo, in a stock swap valued at $16.5 million.

The deal is expected to close in September.

"In our traditional marketplace we're in a stable and slow-growth area for deposits," said John D. Waters, F.N.B.'s chief financial officer. "We look to Florida as the growth market in the United States."

F.N.B., which has $2.3 billion of assets, has already bought two Florida bank holding companies this year: West Coast Bancorp last month and Southwest Banks Inc. in January.

West Coast owns First National Bank of Southwest Florida; Southwest owns Cape Coral National Bank and First National Bank of Naples.

Mr. Waters said F.N.B. has no plans to stop. A lot" of community banks in Florida have contacted it about being acquired, he said, and F.N.B. will study opportunities as they arise.

Managements are lured to F.N.B. as a buyer because it will operate separate community banks, he said.

Indian Rocks State does business along the northern border of the southwest Florida area that F.N.B. has its sights on. F.N.B will "probably fill in between Naples and Clearwater," Mr. Waters said. "There's a lot of space in between, and a lot of good growth markets in between."

Indian Rocks State has a Pennsylvania connection, he noted: Its chairman, Harold Ward, comes from Sharon, Pa., a town near F.N.B.'s western Pennsylvania headquarters.

Dr. Ward, a physician, and Peter Mortensen, F.N.B.'s chairman and chief executive officer, had known each other for years, Mr. Waters said.

Familiarity is also why F.N.B., which has 94 branches in Pennsylvania and Ohio, entered the Florida market in the first place. F.N.B. provided correspondent services to Southwest Banks for nine years before buying it. Mr. Mortensen was a founder and board member of Southwest and its lead bank, Cape Coral National,

Frank J. Barkocy, managing director of Josephthal Lyon & Ross in New York, noted that F.N.B.'s Florida strategy isn't unusual. Several other Rust Belt banks, including Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington Bancshares and Chicago's Northern Trust Corp., have bought into the Sunshine State, he pointed out.

The banks don't want to lose the deposits of customers who retire to Florida, Mr. Barkocy said.

"It's been done by larger superregionals rather than a company the size of F.N.B.," he said. "What they have to do is really build critical mass in the Florida market."

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