FirstMerit Corp. in Akron said Wednesday that it has agreed to buy about $1.2 billion of deposits and 24 Chicago-area branches from First Bank of St. Louis.

FirstMerit, which had $10.8 billion of assets at Sept. 30, also is to acquire substantially all of the asset-based loans from an affiliate of First Bank under a separate loan purchase agreement. The deals are expected to close in the first quarter.

Paul G. Greig, FirstMerit's president, chairman and chief executive, said in a press release that the branch deal would give his banking company entry into Chicago. It has 156 branches in Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

FirstMerit is to pay a 3.5% premium to total average deposits for the 30 days before deal closing, or about $42 million. It is to buy a minimum of $315 million of performing loans from First Bank and $104 million of asset-based loans from the affiliate.

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