Equitex Inc., a subprime lender, said Wednesday that it would buy Florida's largest private mortgage bank, First Bankers Mortgage Services Inc.

First Bankers would receive one million shares of Equitex stock, worth about $11.5 million as of midday trading on Wednesday. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company funded $850 million in loans in 1998.

The acquisition "represents a logical next step in our effort to build a major Internet financial services company," said Equitex president Henry Fong.

First Bankers makes loans in 25 states through six branch offices and a wholesale broker network.

The deal is expected to close within 90 days.

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