Mid-Atlantic Investors, a Columbia, S.C., investment firm, is soliciting proxies to support a proposal for Provident Bankshares' board to sell the company.

Companies that might consider Baltimore-based Provident a good takeout target, include BB&T Corp. and Wachovia Corp., analysts said.

In a press release Friday, Mid-Atlantic Investors said it filed the proposal with the company last November and will present it at Provident's annual shareholders meeting April 21.

In an April 1 letter and Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Peter Martin, Provident's chief executive officer, urged shareholders to ignore Mid-Atlantic's "ill-conceived and harmful proposition."

James Wallis, Provident's chief financial officer, echoed that view in an interview Friday.

"Mid-Atlantic is trying to force an issue that is better left unforced," Mr. Wallis said.

Mid-Atlantic's biggest concern about Provident has been its performance, said analysts.

In the last five years the company has earned less than a 1% return on assets, though its peer group has earned a return on assets of 1.15%, said David M. West, a bank analyst at Davenport & Co. in Richmond, Va.

He said Provident is an ideal takeover target. In fact, he said, the major reason for the "buy" recommendation he put on the company in the second half of last year is that "it looks attractive to other companies."

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