Allegiant Bancorp's stock price has soared in recent weeks amid speculation that the Clayton, Mo.-based company is for sale.

Allegiant shares peaked at $25.25 on March 26; they were trading at $21.50 at midday Wednesday. In three months Allegiant's stock has appreciated about 59%.

Shaun R. Hayes, president and chief financial offer of $604 million- asset Allegiant, said he would not comment on the takeover rumors.

If Allegiant is for sale, Memphis-based Union Planters Corp. would be a likely bidder, St. Louis bank analysts said. Though Union Planters has a deal to acquire a St. Louis-area bank, $7 billion-asset Magna Group, Allegiant would make a nice fill-in acquisition, said Timothy Willi, a bank analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc.

Magna Group ranks as St. Louis' third-largest bank, behind NationsBank Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., and Mercantile Bancorp. Allegiant, with branches in some of the city's most affluent areas, would help solidify Union Planters' position, said Michael Ancell, an analyst at Edward D. Jones LP.

Union Planters officials could not be reached for comment. The company, with $18 billion of assets, has been an active acquirer of late, most recently announcing plans to buy $750 million-asset Ambanc Corp. of Vincennes, Ind.

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