Hibernia Corp. chief executive Stephen A. Hansel raised a few eyebrows at a recent shareholders meeting when he described his New Orleans-based bank as "a candidate to be acquired." The question is: Was Mr. Hansel hinting about anything specific?

Hibernia's status as an attractive acquisition candidate has long been recognized in the industry. With $7.5 billion of assets, it is the second- largest bank in Louisiana, enjoying healthy deposit shares in the state's major markets.

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