Huntington Buying Empire Banc of Mich.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Huntington Bancshares has a deal to buy Empire Banc Corp. for $136.7 million of stock.Huntington is to exchange 2.0355 of its shares for each Empire Banc share. That is 40% more than Empire Banc's closing price Friday. Empire had about 3.16 million shares outstanding as of Sept. 30. Huntington plans to issue 6.5 million shares in connection with the deal.

Traverse City, Mich.-based Empire Banc has 10 offices in northern Michigan, half of which are in Grand Traverse County. Huntington would have more than 130 offices, 200 ATMs, and $4.6 billion of deposits in the state.

Huntington said the deal, expected to close by the end of the second quarter, would add to earnings by next year.

Empire chief financial officer William Fitzgerald said Traverse City is a financial, retail, and medical hub in northern Michigan. Mr. Fitzgerald said some jobs would be lost, but there would be opportunities for Empire Banc workers at Huntington.

Huntington has $29 billion of assets. Empire Banc has assets of $505.7 million and deposits of $418.4 million.

Huntington's shares fell 37.5 cents, to $20.875, in late trading. The stock has fallen 28% in the past year. Empire Banc rose $7, to $38.

- Bloomberg News

Fannie Says It Beat HUD Lending Goals

WASHINGTON - Fannie Mae said Monday that about 46% of the homes it financed in 1999 were for low- and moderate-income households, which exceeded the 42% threshold that the Department of Housing and Urban Development had set for the government-sponsored enterprise last year.Fannie said that about 27% of the homes it financed last year were in underserved areas, compared with HUD's goal of 24%. Affordable housing for low- and very-low-income households in single-family and multifamily buildings totaled almost 19% of all the homes Fannie financed in 1999, compared with the 14% goal set by HUD, Fannie said It said it also beat HUD's goal of $1.29 billion of affordable multifamily housing by financing $4 billion.

The majority, 69%, of low- and moderate-income units financed by Fannie were for households with incomes at or below 80% of their area's median, the company said.

NCUA's Wheat Takes Shot at Payday Lenders

WASHINGTON - National Credit Union Administration board member Yolanda Wheat challenged financial services executives Monday to fight predatory lending.Speaking at a Women in Housing and Finance luncheon, Ms. Wheat took aim at the fast-growing payday loan business, which charges high fees to advance money against a customer's next paycheck. More than 8,000 companies are operating in 30 states and the District of Columbia, with 100 more outlets opening each month. Such growth is one of payday lenders' best defenses against criticism. As Ms. Wheat noted, these companies are clearly meeting a market need. But she urged banks, thrifts, and credit unions to meet it.

"Those with no choice need to be provided choices," she said. "We have an obligation to provide fair access … and protect vulnerable or unwary consumers from these merchants of misery."

NCUA is creating a data base of low-income and underserved communities and will encourage credit unions to expand into these markets, Ms. Wheat said.

- Barbara A. Rehm

Alex. Brown Hires Senior U.S. Economist

NEW YORK - Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown said Cary Leahey is joining it from Primark Decision Economics as a director and senior U.S. economist for macroeconomic and financial analysis.Mr. Leahey, 47, is to report to managing director Peter Hooper, the chief U.S. economist and co-head of global economics for the unit of Deutsche Bank AG.

Mr. Leahey, who was senior U.S. economist at Primark, was previously chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics and chief U.S. financial markets economist at Lehman Brothers.

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