Union Planters Corp. of Memphis is seen likely to win the bidding for 52 Indiana branches that Banc One Corp. will divest to complete its planned merger with First Chicago NBD Corp.

The Indianapolis Star, citing anonymous sources, reported Wednesday that Union Planters would win the branches, $1.7 billion of deposits in the state, and $820 million of loans. About half the deposits are in Indianapolis.

Banc One and Union Planters declined to comment but a source close to the talks said the Tennessee bank had "the inside track." Any transaction would require Justice Department approval.

The field of bidders was believed to have narrowed earlier this summer to Union Planters and CNB Bancshares of Evansville, Ind.

Union Planters, which has $27 billion of assets, entered Indiana last month with its acquisition of $735 million-asset Ambanc Corp. of Vincennes.

Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who has met with the likely buyer but would not name the company, said its executives made commitments to keep employees and occupy downtown office space.

The buyer would occupy a large portion of One Indiana Square, where First Chicago's NBD Indiana unit is based. The tower is across the street from Bank One Tower. The two companies employ about 6,000 people in Indianapolis.

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