RTC Deal Makes First Union No. 2 in Fla.

ATLANTA - First Union Corp.'s acquisition of Florida Federal Saving gives it the second-largest branch network in the state and strengthens its presence in several key markets, particularly the Tampa Bay area.

The Resolution Trust Corp. announced late Friday that the Charlotte, N.C.-based company was the winning bidder for Florida Federal's 76 offices, located in 22 Florida counties, and about $1.9 billion in deposits.

First Union paid a $10.7 million premium, or about 0.56% of deposits, in a transaction estimated to cost taxpayers $555 million. First Union also purchased a small amount of loans secured by deposits.

The acquisition of the St. Petersburg-based thrifts marks another step in First Union's evolution into a major Florida bank.

Rivals Sun Banks, Barnett

As of June 30, First Union operated 310 offices in Florida with assets of $16.8 billion and deposits of $12.5 billion, virtually equal in size to Orlando-based Sun Banks Inc. but behind Barnett Banks Inc., Jacksonville, which has $30.6 billion in Florida assets.

However, NationsBank, which is expected to be formed later this year by the combination of NCNB Corp. and C&S/Sovran Corp., will create Florida's second-largest bank overnight, with assets of $20 billion in the state.

The Florida Federal deposits advance First Union's deposit market share from fifth to fourth in Hillsborough County (Tampa) and from sixth to third in Pinellas County (St. Petersburg). First Union will also have the leading market share in Indian River, and will be second in Brevard, Polk, and Volusia counties.

Some Redundant Offices

Since many Florida Federal offices are in markets already served by First Union, the company said it would consolidate "certain overlapping offices" over the next several months.

Analysts said the Florida Federal acquisition is not likely to dampen First Union's reported interest in acquiring Miami-based Southeast Banking Corp. with federal assistance. "My guess is [First Union] would still be interested in purchasing another property here of size," said J. Frederick Meinke of the St. Petersburg-based brokerage firm Raymond James & Associates Inc.

Southeast, with $11.2 billion in assets, is seeking a merger or capital infusion and has said a takover could include federal assistance.

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