WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve Board approved on Tuesday the merger of two Houston banking companies and an application by a Japanese company to buy the U.S. subsidiaries of two other Japanese banking firms.

The Fed approved the $53 million merger of Prosperity Bancshares with Commercial Bancshares, whose units include Heritage Bank in Wharton. The combined company has more than $1.1 billion of assets. The Fed also approved the application of UFJ Holdings of Osaka, Japan, to become a bank holding company.

UFJ is a corporation being established under Japanese law by the merger of three companies, including Sanwa Bank in Osaka, which owns $9 billion-asset Sanwa Bank California in Los Angeles, and Tokai Bank in Nagoya, which owns $1.9 billion-asset Tokai Bank of California, also of Los Angeles.

The merger would make UFJ the second-largest banking organization in Japan, with $783 billion of assets.

Separately, the Fed on Tuesday approved the applications of Allfirst Bank in Baltimore to establish branches in Largo, Md., and Reading, Pa.

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