Nara Bancorp Inc. and Center Financial Corp. in Los Angeles are joining forces in a $285.7 million merger that will create the nation's biggest Korean-American bank.

Center shareholders will receive 0.7804 shares of Nara common stock, roughly equivalent to $7.16 a share based on Center's closing stock prices on Wednesday.

Nara, at $3 billion in assets, and the $2.3 billion-asset Center would create a bank that easily surpasses Wilshire Bancorp Inc., which is the biggest Korean-American bank — for now — at $3.2 billion in assets. The company will have more than 40 branches in California, New York, New Jersey, and cities such as Seattle and Chicago.

The companies said they would create a new name, though it was not disclosed in the Thursday press release. Nara's shareholders will own 55% of the company and Center's shareholders will own the rest. The deal is expected to close during the first half of next year.

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