The unusual ownership structure that links four Virginia community banks has helped them strike a deal to buy branches from First Union Corp.

This month the banks-First National Exchange Bank in Roanoke, Blue Ridge Bank in Floyd, Patriot Bank in Fredericksburg, and Shenandoah National Bank in Staunton-announced they would buy 10 branches for an undisclosed price. First Union got seven of the branches when it bought Signet Banking Corp. in December and is also selling the other three to adjust to that purchase.

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