LAWRENCE, Mass. -- First Essex Bancorp beat out several other banks to get $20.7 million in performing commercial loans from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The $700 million-asset holding company paid $16.7 million for the portfolio, which includes 182 loans from 10 failed institutions.

Nine of the banks were in eastern Massachusetts, and the other in Vermont.

"It brings to us customers in areas that we haven't been marketing in the past," said executive vice president David L. Savoie who added that the deal is part of a planned expansion further south and west in Massachusetts.

First Essex will continue to service all of the new loans, Mr. Savoie said.

First Essex is the holding company for First Essex Bank, with 11 branches in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

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