Virginia's largest minority-owned bank plans to buy three branches from First Union Corp.

The deal would bring $30 million of deposits to Richmond-based Consolidated Bank and Trust Co., which already has $87 million.

The branches are in the Hampton Roads area of eastern Virginia, where the population is predominantly black.

The deal, announced last week, is expected to close in late April.

"When the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at it," said V.W. Henley, Consolidated's chairman and chief executive officer.

"We look at this as really a great chance to expand our franchise."

But Mr. Henley said it could be a while before the $100 million-asset bank next expands.

"We have to absorb what we're taking in," he said. "This is quite a big chunk for us."

The last time 94-year-old Consolidated expanded was in 1989, when it bought two thrifts near Hampton Roads: Community Federal Savings and Loan and People's Savings and Loan.

That was the first time it had ventured outside of the Richmond area.

But soon after converting the two thrifts into banks, Consolidated closed People's in Newport News.

Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union will continue to run 23 branches in the Hampton Roads area, said Bill Slayton, its president for the area.

He said First Union decided not to invest in new technology for the three branches it is selling, each of which had about $10 million deposits, but looked for a way to sell the branches instead of closing them.

As part of the deal, First Union will hold on to the branches' loans. Consolidated is keeping the 14-person work force.

"We're delighted we're able to do that," Mr. Henley said.

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