Upstart Triangle Bank of Raleigh continues to expand its presence in central and eastern North Carolina, agreeing this week to acquire three NationsBank Corp. offices in the latter area.

The three offices would bring $49 million of deposits and $15 million to $20 million of loans to Triangle, subject to regulatory approval.

The deal, which is expected to close in the fall, would increase the bank's deposits by 9%, as well as bolstering its business in the eastern part of the state. Two of the NationsBank offices are in Tarboro, where Triangle already has a $16 million-deposit branch, and the third is in Havelock, where Triangle has a nearby $13 million-deposit branch.

"These offices are a great fit for our bank," said Michael S. Patterson, president and chief executive of $638 million-asset Triangle. "With locations throughout eastern North Carolina, we feel we are well positioned to serve the needs of the customers in these markets."

The bank would not disclose the premium it will pay for the deposits and loans.

Though it is the first branch acquisition the bank has made, the deal was yet another step in Triangle's drive to become one of the largest banks in the state, behind the Charlotte-based superregionals.

In the past four years it has more than doubled in size, moving from 36th-largest in North Carolina to 9th-biggest. And it does not yet appear satisfied. Bank officials said they expect Triangle to nearly double again, to more than $1 billion of assets, within three to four years.

"We are looking at all opportunities that become available," said Debra L. Lee, Triangle's chief financial officer. "They could be both in new markets (and) an expansion of our existing markets. In other words, we're not going to Florida."

The announcement of the branch deal this week came less than a month after Triangle signed its latest bank acquisition - a stock swap for the Village Bank in Chapel Hill. That deal followed the completion of three other takeovers in the first quarter.

Those three deals cost Triangle $880,000 in after-tax merger expenses, reducing first-quarter earnings by 33%, to $799,000, compared with the first quarter of 1994.

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