First American's purchase of Deposit Guaranty appears to have been star-crossed from the beginning. The company won an intensive bidding battle for Deposit Guaranty in December 1997. The price, $2.7 billion in stock, was widely perceived as much too high by analysts and investors.

The price amounted to 25 times earnings and 4.2 times book value, bringing the total to more than NationsBank Corp. paid for the much more attractive Barnett Banks.

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