The chairman of First Union Corp. insisted Wednesday that his company was moving carefully in its expansion drive. His remarks came amid newspaper reports that First Union was considering big acquisitions in Maryland and Texas.

"Looking and doing are two different things - I want to emphasize that," Edward E. Crutchfield Jr. told an investor conference sponsored by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

American Banker and others have reported that Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union has explored the acquisition of two troubled banking companies - the $16.7 billion-as-set MNC Financial Inc., Baltimore, and the $9.5 billion-asset First City Bancorporation of Texas, Houston.

Mr. Crutchfield refused to discuss specific companies. Acquisitions make sense, he said, but he vowed that First Union would not proceed with one unless it benefits shareholders within a year of so. "That is not negotiable, period," he said.

Any deal also would have to include guarantees against losses from bad loans and lawsuits, he indicated.

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