First United Bancshares in El Dorado, Ark., is planning to acquire community banks in Louisiana and Arkansas.

First United, with $1.9 billion of assets, has signed agreements to purchase First Republic Bancshares of Rayville, La., for roughly $32 million in stock, and Citizens National Bancshares of Hope, Ark., for an undisclosed sum. Both deals are expected to close in March.

"Citizens is attractive because it brings strong management to the company," said John E. Burns, chief financial officer at First United, the parent of First National Bank. "First Republic brings diversity to the company, because it is located in a good growth area of Louisiana."

Citizens, with six branches and $238 million of assets, is the parent company of Citizens National Bank, and People's Bank and Loan Co. of Lewisville, Ark. First Republic has $149 million of assets in six Louisiana branches.

First United has been an active buyer of banks in its region in recent months. In December it bought Fredonia State Bank of Nacogdoches, Tex., and City Bank and Trust in Shreveport, La.

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