ST. LOUIS — In a move that would add to its already considerable California holdings, First Banks America Inc. has announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to buy Charter Pacific Bank of Agoura Hills.

First Banks would pay $21.4 million, or $3.80 a share, for the $103 million-asset bank.

After discontinuing its merchant draft processing operations at the end of 1999, Charter Pacific’s net income last year fell 76.7% from the year before, to $477,000. The bank posted a $14,000 profit for the first quarter.

With the Charter Pacific deal, First Banks picks up where it left off last year, when it bought four California banks: Bank of Ventura, Commercial Bank of San Francisco, Millennium Bank of San Francisco, and Bank of San Francisco. The company has bought 17 banks since entering the state in 1994.

The Charter Pacific deal is expected to close in the third quarter. First Banks said it plans to merge Charter Pacific into its primary California subsidiary, First Bank and Trust in San Francisco.

Terrance McCarthy, First Bank and Trust’s president and chief executive officer, said the company continues to explore possible deals but probably will not buy as many banks as it did last year.

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