First Banks America Inc. of St. Louis said Thursday that it would buy the $90 million-asset bank for an undisclosed sum. A $17 million deal this year between Lippo and Commercial Bank of San Francisco fell through after Commercial was unable to raise enough funds from private sources.

First Banks, which has $619 million of assets in California, said the transaction would enhance its presence in northern California, where it has 14 branches. It is the second deal in California this year for First Banks, which agreed in March to buy $153 million-asset Century Bank of Beverly Hills.

The $906 million-asset First Banks also has operations in Missouri and Texas. Lippo is owned by Indonesian investor James T. Riady, whose family made headlines in 1997 with its alleged ties to a Democratic fund-raising scandal.

James Per Lee, president and chief executive officer of Lippo, said the deal offers an opportunity to "more aggressively market and expand the banking services available to our customers." It is expected to close in early 2000. -- Matt Andrejczak

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