A bank and thrift in central Ohio are cooking up an unusual acquisition.

Last week, $476 million-asset BancFirst Ohio Corp., Zanesville, agreed to acquire $521 million-asset County Savings Bank, Columbus, for about $48 million. BancFirst intends to fund the purchase through cash, proceeds from a stock sale, and borrowings.

"I guess it's a little different," said James H. Nicholson, BancFirst's secretary and treasurer. "Typically when you have two institutions of similar size, you try to explore a merger of equals opportunity."

But in this case, County Savings is a closely held thrift whose small group of owners recently decided to sell, said Edward N. Cohn, chairman and president. County Savings had experienced some asset-quality problems several years ago, but management had already turned the institution around.

"You don't typically see an institution almost the exact same size ... buying the other," Mr. Cohn said. "In this case, I think they're so well- capitalized, that's what warrants their acquisition of us."

At yearend, BancFirst had about $50 million in equity, while County Savings, a unit of First Financial Group, had only about $34 million.

BancFirst, which already owns First National Bank of Zanesville and Bellbrook Community Bank, would initially operate the thrift as a separate entity, maintaining its management and most locations.

The deal also includes noncompete agreements, although both companies declined to elaborate on them.

"I think this particular deal looks attractive for BancFirst," said Ross Demmerle, an analyst with McDonald & Company Securities Inc., Cleveland. "It's getting them into the Columbus market area, which is very attractive" and conducive to rapid expansion, he said.

First Financial Group shareholders already have approved the deal. The merger still awaits regulatory approval, but is expected to be completed by the end of September.

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