NEW ORLEANS -- First Commerce Corp. said it had signed a definitive agreement to purchase $251 million-asset First Bancshares Inc. for about $75.3 million in stock.

Shareholders of First Bancshares will receive 2,531,690 shares of First Commerce common stock.

First Bancshares, with $223 million of deposits, will merge its First Bank subsidiary into First Commerce's First National Bank of Commerce, which is based in New Orleans.

With a deposit share of 23%, First Bank serves St. Tammany Parish, with six branches in Slidell, Mandeville, and Covington.

First Commerce, Louisiana's largest bank holding company, has four other banks headquartered in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Lake Charles, with a total of 108 branches.

First NBC has assets of $4.0 billion and deposits of $3.3 billion. First Commerce has $6.4 billion of assets and $5.3 billion of deposits.

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