NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - Seacoast Financial Services Corp. announced Friday that it would acquire Home Port Bancorp on Nantucket for $68.5 million in cash.

Seacoast, the $2.3 billion-asset holding company of Compass Bank, has agreed to pay $37 a share, or 2.42 times book value, for $329 million-asset Home Port and its subsidiary, Nantucket Bank. Nantucket, a three-branch savings bank with 70% market share on the island, would become a subsidiary of Seacoast but retain its name.

The deal would bolster Seacoast's position as one of the largest community bank companies in southeastern Massachusetts. The company, which has 37 branches, expanded on Cape Cod in 1998 when it won a bidding war for Sandwich (Mass.) Bancorp. It also acquired Martha's Vineyard National Bank six years ago.

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