Pennsylvania's Prime Bancorp is moving ahead with plans to create an enlarged commercial bank.

Prime, the $923 million-asset parent of Prime Bank, a savings bank, and First Sterling Bank, a commercial bank, wants to combine the two into one commercial bank. The blended bank would be called Prime Bank.

The merger, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to be completed late this year.

"This move marks the culmination of a nine-year effort by Prime to transform itself from a savings bank to a strong Delaware Valley commercial bank," said James J. Lynch, president and CEO of Prime Bancorp in a written statement.

Prime acquired First Sterling Bancorp, Devon, Pa., on Dec. 31 in a $29 million stock deal. Before the deal closed, Prime officials considered whether to convert their flagship subsidiary, Prime Bank, into a commercial bank or to run both a thrift and a commercial bank.

Walter L. Tillman, executive vice president of Prime Bancorp, said the company decided it would be more highly regarded by customers and the investment community if it operated as a commercial bank. He also said the stock of a commercial bank would be likely to trade at a higher price.

The merger of Prime Bank and First Sterling Bank would give the company 23 branches in the Philadelphia area.

The company's 24th branch is to be opened in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., this fall.

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