First Citizens BancShares in Raleigh is again looking to consolidate its two main units.

The $21 billion-asset company said it has filed an application to merge IronStone Bank, its thrift, into First Citizens Bank, a state-chartered bank. IronStone, which was used over the past eight years to expand into states such as Arizona, California and Florida, will continue to operate as a division of the bank.

"Merging our two companies is a sound business decision," said Frank B. Holding Jr., the company's chairman and chief executive, in a press release. "The merger will mean greater efficiencies, less complexity and more cost effectiveness. It will also provide our company with additional opportunities for growth in the future."

The IronStone name will remain on branches "for the foreseeable future" and regulatory approval is expected by the first quarter.

The company first applied to merge the units in October 2008 but quickly withdrew the application without saying why. Analysts have speculated that another attempt to consolidate was possible.

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