The Federal Reserve Board approved three mergers Wednesday, including SunTrust Banks Inc.'s acquisition of Crestar Financial Corp., Richmond, Va.

The deal, announced July 20, combines the 20th- and 37th-largest bank holding companies in the United States. The new company would rank 10th, with $97 billion of assets. It is SunTrust's first major bank acquisition since 1986.

SunTrust, a $61 billion-asset company based in Atlanta, hopes to close the deal by yearend. But first it must convince the Securities and Exchange Commission to sign off on SunTrust's proxy materials. The SEC reportedly is concerned that SunTrust's loan-loss reserves are too large and could require the company to restate past earnings. The Fed's 23-page order does not mention SunTrust's tussle with the SEC.

The Fed also approved Milwaukee-based Firstar Corp.'s merger with Star Banc Corp., Cincinnati. Once combined, the companies would be the nation's 28th-largest bank, with $38 billion of assets.

The Fed said Charter One Financial Inc., Cleveland, may become a bank holding company by acquiring Albank Financial Corp., Albany, N.Y.

The deal between Charter One, with $20.2 billion of assets, and $4.1 billion-asset Albank was announced June 15 and is to close by yearend.

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