NationsBank Corp. must pay a hefty price for a small Georgia thrift it doesn't want, a Georgia Superior Court judge has ordered.

The court ruled last week that the $188 billion-asset NationsBank must pay 1,280,268 of its common shares for First Federal Savings Bank of Brunswick.

First Federal estimates that shareholders will receive about 0.8 shares of NationsBank stock for each share of First Federal stock - equal to about four times the thrift's book value of $26 million. NationsBank currently is trading at about $89 a share.

The ruling ends a five-year legal battle by the $250 million-asset thrift. First Federal took NationsBank to court to enforce a merger that was first agreed to by C&S/Sovran Corp., which NationsBank bought in 1991.

The court will decide later how many additional NationsBank shares will be needed to cover dividends First Federal shareholders would have received if the merger had been completed in 1991. First Federal officials estimated the final price at $112 million, including dividends.

The case was heard by two juries, and both decided in favor of First Federal. But the price of the transaction had not been ruled on.

The order is subject to appeal by both banks, but NationsBank spokesman Scott Scredon said the super-regional won't appeal. "No, we're ready to go ahead with the acquisition," he said.

The bank expects to complete the purchase in the first quarter of 1997.

Ben T. Slade 3d, president of First Federal, refused to comment on the decision yesterday. "We are still in the process of analyzing the order," he said. "There are some adjustments to be made."

Mr. Scredon said NationsBank is "gratified" by the ruling, because NationsBank will fork over 220,000 fewer shares than First Federal had demanded.

He said NationsBank also was relieved that the judge "limited" First Federal's legal fees and absolved NationsBank from paying severance packages to the thrift's management.

In the court order, Judge E.M. Wilkes 3d said agreements to offer severance packages to First Federal officers were not in place at the time of the merger agreement.

The severance packages, which exceeded $1 million, were created by the thrift in 1992 for its top employees, according to court documents.

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