ATLANTA - First Sterling Banks Inc. of Kennesaw, Ga., said Wednesday it plans to double its asset size by 2003 and will use mergers and acquisitions to generate much of the growth.

Chief executive officer Edward C. Milligan made the remarks in a presentation at the Robinson-Humphrey 2000 Community Bank Conference.

"Our target is to double our size by 2003 through organic growth and acquisitions," Mr. Milligan said during the presentation. "We hope to be the community bank of choice for small businesses and retail customers in metropolitan Atlanta, and the preferred exit strategy for community banks in the region."

First Sterling merged with Main Street Banks Inc. in May, creating a community banking entity with assets of $915 million as of June 30. Mr. Milligan said he expects mergers and acquisitions to add 10% to 15% to assets annually.

The banking company also has a target of 12% to 15% annual growth in per-share earnings, he said

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