Merrill Lynch & Co. claimed the top spot among advisers for bank mergers and acquisitions in the Southeast last year, mainly due to its participation in one deal, according to SNL Securities.

Merrill received advisory credit on three deals, including the Southeast's largest, NationsBank Corp.'s $1.6 billion acquisition of Bank South Corp., Atlanta. Merrill Lynch served as Bank South's adviser in that transaction.

James D. Wolfensohn Inc., another New York firm, came in second based on its participation in the same deal. Wolfensohn advised NationsBank on the purchase, but did no others in the region in 1995.

Merrill's other Southeast deals were much smaller, including Nashville- based First American Corp.'s purchase of Heritage Federal Bancshares. It advised First American in the $97 million transaction.

A regional firm, Atlanta-based Robinson-Humphrey, claimed third place based on its participation in 10 deals, mostly representing community banks selling out to larger institutions. The largest was First Union Corp.'s $514 million purchase of Coral Gables Fedcorp, where Robinson-Humphrey represented the Florida thrift.

Robinson also advised Miami's Intercontinental Bank in its $208 million purchase by NationsBank and Augusta, Ga.-based Bankers First Corp. in its $146 million acquisition by First Union.

Bear, Stearns & Co. took fourth place based on its advisory role to Regions Financial Corp. in the Southeast's second largest deal - Regions' $648 million purchase of First National Bancorp. of Gainesville, Ga.

The largest deal actually transacted by a Southeast bank in 1995 was First Union's acquisition of New Jersey's First Fidelity Bancorp, for $6.3 billion. First Union was represented by Lazard Freres & Co., while Goldman, Sachs & Co. advised First Fidelity.

But since First Fidelity had only a limited southeastern presence, in Maryland, the deal cannot be classified as a Southeast transaction.

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