NationsBank Corp.'s recent agreement to buy Houston-based Charter Bancshares continued its recent pattern of launching preemptive bids for in-market acquisitions.

NationsBank, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., said last week that it will purchase 58% of Charter for $94.7 million in stock, or 2.5 times book value. NationsBank already owns the rest of Charter's stock, which it received in return for infusing $13 million of capital into the community bank in the mid-1980s.

Charter chairman and chief executive Jerry E. Finger said the NationsBank offer was so high that he didn't even bother to talk to any other banks. "This was just a preemptory bid," Mr. Finger said. "It's so far out of what has been paid for banks that I didn't have any other bidders."

The acquisition of Charter, which has $900 million of assets, resembles NationsBank's purchase of Atlanta-based Bank South Corp. last September. In that, a much larger deal, NationsBank's offer of $1.6 billion, or 240% of book, knocked other prospective bidders right out of the market.

NationsBank is able to make these deals work because of the in-market cost savings. But Robert B. Lane, president of NationsBank Texas, declined Friday to discuss the savings NationsBank will extract from Charter's expense base, except to note that only three or four branches of the two companies actually overlap.

NationsBank has 54 branches in the Houston area, including eight in supermarkets; Charter has 19, including five in grocery stores.

Mr. Lane said Charter's $700 million of deposits will increase NationsBank's 10% market share in Houston by an additional 1.7%. NationsBank will still remain No. 2 in Houston deposit share, after Chemical Banking Corp.'s Texas Commerce Bank unit.

Charter has not yet released its fourth-quarter earnings. For the first nine months of 1995, it earned $7.7 million, for a 1.21% return on assets and a 19.05% return on equity.

NationsBank provided $13 million of capital for Charter in two infusions, in 1986 and 1988, when the bank got caught up in the Texas recession and banking crisis. Despite the NationsBank stake, Mr. Finger often spoke of his interest in remaining independent.

"I had thought at some point we would be able to buy them out," Mr. Finger said. "But NationsBank and banks its size simply enjoy a lot higher efficiency than banks our size. Their cost of business is substantially less than our's and there is no way that we will be able to overcome that."

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