Pacific Capital Bancorp in Salinas, Calif., said it plans to buy San Benito Bank in Hollister, Calif., in a stock deal worth about $52 million. San Benito has $201 million of assets and three branches. Pacific Capital, the parent of First National Bank of California, has $2.8 billion of assets and 37 branches in six counties in central California. San Benito would become a subsidiary of Pacific.Edward T. Stephenson, president and chief executive officer of San Benito, said it is selling because of intensified competition. Banks that want to "continue serving their markets with superior service" need to join others with the same operating philosophy, he said.

The deal was announced late Thursday and is expected to close in the second quarter. Shares of San Benito had fallen 31.75%, to $18, by midafternoon Friday. Pacific's shares were trading at just under $29, unchanged.

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