Republic Security Financial Corp. has completed its $279 million deal for First Palm Beach Bancorp, making it the largest commercial bank left in Florida.

But the question now becomes whether the company has changed from acquirer to takeover candidate itself.

With the deal for First Palm complete, West Palm Beach-based Republic Security controls 90 branches and $3 billion of assets. That leapfrogs the company past Ocean Bank in Miami and Republic Bank in St. Petersburg to the top spot among the Sunshine State's commercial banks, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

First Palm is the eighth institution that Republic Security has bought since the beginning of 1992. In that time the former thrift has increased its assets by more than 2,000%.

Peyton N. Green, senior analyst with Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc. in Atlanta, said the size of First Palm-$1.8 billion of assets when the deal closed-and that it was an in-market deal should present Republic Security with plenty of opportunities to consolidate.

Republic Security has said it expects to squeeze at least $9 million in cost savings out of the merger.

"It should be interesting to see how quickly they can go in there and generate the cost savings," Mr. Green said.

The merger is also likely to put Republic Security on more big banks' radar screens. Most large Florida banks have surrendered their independence, including Barnett Banks Inc., which sold to BankAmerica Corp. predecessor NationsBank Corp. in January.

Big banks are always looking to buy into Florida's red hot economy, and "there isn't much else left to buy with $3 billion of assets," Mr. Green said.

Rudy E. Schupp, Republic Security's chairman, president, and chief executive, said Republic Security will remain independent-for now, at least. He said that with stock prices low, his board, which owns 20% of the company's stock, is not considering offers.

"When you have a healthy company, you do not sell it in a down market," he said.

Instead, he said, he hopes to build a statewide franchise. The company has three deals pending that would expand Republic Security into the central part of the state. That could be it for the bank deals, though.

"Frankly, the premiums are too high, and the candidates are too few," Mr. Schupp said.

If the company is to grow, he said, it would be through branch expansion. He said he plans to add branches to complement Republic Security's bank deals in central Florida.

It's a sound strategy, Mr. Green said.

"They have adapted their business plan so many times and made it work, that gives me confidence they can do it again," he said.

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