Iowa community banks are hoping that giant NationsBank Corp. will put some of its rural branches up for sale once it enters the state through its pending acquisition of Boatmen's Bancshares.

Past invaders have thinned the branch networks of their Iowa acquisitions, and bankers and observers alike predict that Charlotte, N.C.- based NationsBank - not known for small-town banking - will follow their example.

Boatmen's has 25 branches in the state with $1 billion in deposits, making it the fifth-largest player in the market. Given that the deal hasn't yet gone through, NationsBank hasn't announced its plans for those branches.

But Iowa community bankers eager to expand their marketshare stand ready to snap them up should NationsBank decide to sell them.

Kevin Prust, a financial institutions partner with the Des Moines office of McGladrey & Pullen, said the state's banking community has been abuzz with speculation about NationsBank's intentions.

"The deal hasn't been approved yet, but that doesn't stop anyone from jumping the gun," Mr. Prust said. "There's been quite a bit of discussion about the criteria NationsBank will have for keeping a branch and the time it will take to put them on the auction block."

Mr. Prust alluded to two precedents of big banks selling scraps to little banks within the past two years: Boatmen's selling branches after it bought First Interstate Bank of Iowa and First Bank Systems selling Iowa branches of Edina, Minn.-based thrift Metropolitan Financial Corp.

Kevin W. Krause, chief executive of Liberty Bank and Trust, Mason City, also expected history to be a guide.

"With each assimilation of Boatmen's, there was a little phaseout, and Boatmen's has phased out branches over the past 12 to 15 months," said the executive of the $100 million-asset Liberty.

Mr. Prust said that, because of deposit cap and location considerations, none of the out-of-state regional banks would likely be interested in acquiring the branches.

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