ATLANTA -- Continuing a recent spate of modest acquisitions, Sun Trust Banks Inc. said Wednesday it would acquire Coast Bank in Sarasota, Fla., for $70 million.

The deal to acquire Coast, which has $1.1 billion in assets, is the third agreement Atlanta-based Sun Trust has reached in the last two months.

Target: Market Share

In August, Sun Trust, which has $35 billion in assets, agreed to acquire Home Trust Bank of Georgia, Gainesville, with $310 million in assets. Last week Sun Trust announced plans to buy $370 million-asset First United Bancorp in Florence, Ala.

All three deals fall into the Sun Trust pattern of buying significant market share. Purchasing Coast and its 28 offices would boost Sun Trust's share of deposits in Sarasota County to 18%, from 8%. Coast also has a 13% share in adjacent Flagler County, which would give Sun Trust 21% after the merger.

"It marries up well with what we've got," said John W. Spiegel, Sun Trust's chief financial officer.

Mr. Spiegel declined to comment, but Sun Trust is thought to be negotiating to buy West Palm Beach-based Flagler Bank Corp. Flagler, which has $462 million in assets, announced on Sept. 14 it was "engaged in negotiations to be acquired by another financial institution" but declined to identify the prospective buyer.

Shift to Expansion

Sun Trust appears to have become a more aggressive purchaser since May. That's when it made first vice president Ronald W. Eastburn second in command of the treasurer's department, with specific responsibility for scouting out acquisitions.

Mr. Spiegel said Mr. Eastburn's appointment was "co-incidental" to the recent deals.

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