LUMBERTON, N.C. -- Southern National Corp. announced a definitive agreement to buy First Savings Bank of Greenville, S.C.

Southern National, which has assets of $5.2 billion, said it will pay about $181 million in stock for the $2 billion-asset thrift company. The transaction, which will be accounted for as a pooling of interest, is expected to be completed in early 1994.

The ambitious bid by Southern National, which is believed to have competed with North Carolina giant First Union Corp. for the thrift, will make it the third-largest bank in South Carolina, providing entry into 21 new markets in the state. First Savings is the largest financial institution with headquarters in South Carolina.

Southern National said it will relocate its South Carolina bank headquarters from Columbia to Greenville, where the company will have the largest deposit market share of any bank or thrift. The combined company will have $8 billion of assets and more than 200 banking offices in North Carolina and South Carolina, following the completion of other pending North Carolina mergers.

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