Allied Bank Capital Inc. of Sanford, N.C. is looking at opportunities to be sold, as well as other options.

The $268 million-asset company recently hired an investment bank, Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc., to help study strategic alternatives for the two- thrift holding company.

"We always have the responsibility to see what's out there and see what's available," said Del F. Jones, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the company.

Mr. Jones said the step was not taken in response to any offer or other event. Rather, he said, with consolidation occurring around it, the time seemed right to start looking.

Allied has received no any offers, formal or otherwise, Mr. Jones said. He added that outright sale of the company is just one of the alternatives that will be considered.

Analysts said likely candidates to buy Allied Bank include the state's handful of medium-size banks, such as United Carolina Bancshares in Whiteville, Centura Banks Inc. in Rocky Mount, CCB Financial Corp. in Durham, and First Citizens Bancshares in Raleigh.

"I wouldn't rule out the big ones either, such as Wachovia or NationsBank," said David Stumpf, analyst at Wheat First Butcher Singer in Richmond, Va.

Allied Bank's stock jumped $1.50 to $22.75 on June 8, the day after it announced hiring the investment firm. It was trading at $20.50 early Monday afternoon.

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