First BanCorp in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said Tuesday that it struck an agreement under which the private-equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners LP may buy $180 million of the company's common stock.

The proposed purchase is contingent on First BanCorp's selling a total of $500 million to $550 million in common stock. The private-equity firm would pay $3.50 a share. First BanCorp also plans to let existing common shareholders buy additional stock at the same price in a rights offering limited to $35 million of common equity.

Aurelio Aleman, the company's president and chief executive, said in a press release that the Thomas H. Lee deal is a "critical and important step" that will "strengthen the corporation's balance sheet and capital ratios."

First BanCorp last month reported that at March 31 it had a Tier 1 leverage ratio of 7.6% and a total risk-based capital ratio of 11.97%. Under a May 2010 enforcement action, the company must raise those ratios to 8% and 12%.

After the capital raise and First BanCorp's conversion of about $425 million of preferred stock held by the Treasury Department into common stock, Thomas H. Lee Partners would own about 24.9% of the company.

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