First Virginia Banks Inc., the fifth-largest bank in the state, plans to nearly triple its common shares.

According to its proxy filed Thursday, the banking company wants to increase the number of authorized shares outstanding to 175 million, from the 60 million now authorized. As of Feb. 17, the bank had about 52 million shares outstanding.

First Virginia said it wants the shares available for future acquisitions, financings, stock splits, or other "general corporate purposes."

The company's last acquisition occurred in 1996, when it bought Premier Bankshares of Bluefield, Va., for $162 million.

The proxy said that First Virginia chairman, president, and chief executive Barry J. Fitzpatrick was paid $600,000 in salary and $346,944 in bonus last year, a 27% increase over his 1996 compensation.

Mr. Fitzpatrick was awarded $325,000 of his bonus because the bank exceeded its goals in such areas as return on assets and nonperforming assets through the first nine months.

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