Peoples Bancorp of Auburn, Ind., said this week that it plans to buy a southwestern Michigan thrift for $14.4 million of stock.

Peoples, a $317 million-asset thrift, expects to complete the acquisition of $101 million-asset Three Rivers (Mich.) Financial Corp. in the first quarter. After the deal's closing, the thrifts would continue to operate under separate names within the Peoples holding company.

"By combining, we'll have more than $400 million in assets, which will push us up the ladder a little competitively in our area," said Roger Wertenberger, Peoples' chairman. "That's not big for Chicago or Detroit, but that gives us a little size in smaller communities like Auburn and Three Rivers."

The deal is valued at $18.36 per share, a 70.1% premium on the $10.75 per share at which Three Rivers was trading at midday Wednesday. -- Craig Woker

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