Union Planters Corp., a fast growing regional banking company based in Memphis, is reportedly negotiating to buy Ready State Bank of Hialeah, a $581 million-asset bank in south Florida.

The Miami Herald reported Thursday that Union Planters may announce as early as next week a deal to buy the bank, which has 12 branches in Miami- Dade and Broward counties.

Ready State's board was set to meet Thursday afternoon, the newspaper said, while quoting Union Planters president and chief operating officer Jackson W. Moore as saying that there was "no definitive agreement and no definitive time schedule for anything to occur."

A deal for Ready would be Union Planters' fourth in South Florida in eight months. The $18.6 billion company entered the state late last year with its purchase of the $2 billion-asset Capital Bancorp.

Union Planters likes to "buy a small fill-in, get rid of the back office as quickly as possible, and make the thing additive from there," said Christopher T. Kelley, an analyst with Morgan Keegan & Co. "South Florida is one of the best economies they're located in."

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