AmTrust Bank in Cleveland said Friday that it is selling five branches in Columbus, Ohio, because it needs to raise capital to satisfy regulators.

The $16.5 billion-asset AmTrust, under an order by the Office of the Thrift Supervision to raise capital after losing $305.7 million in the third quarter on bad real estate loans in Florida and Arizona, is selling all five of its Columbus branches to WesBanco Inc. in Wheeling, W.Va., for $20.9 million, or a 3.5% premium on roughly $601 million of deposits.

Ken Thomas, a Miami branch consultant, said the branch is "a drop in the bucket" for AmTrust. "The company needs to raise hundreds, not tens of millions of capital."

AmTrust could get as much as $300 million if it sold its 36 branches in Arizona and Florida, its most attractive markets, Mr. Thomas said. However, depending on fourth-quarter losses, that may not be enough to satisfy regulators, he said.

Including the five in Columbus, AmTrust has 70 branches.

The $5.1 billion-asset WesBanco would assume all the deposits at the five branches, as well as related fixed assets, but no loans. It said Friday that it does not plan to close any of the branches, and that it would retain the majority of AmTrust's employees there.

The deal is expected to close in March.

Donna Winfield, a spokeswoman for AmTrust, said that the branch deal was part of a strategic plan required by regulators to improve earnings and raise capital.

AmTrust's Tier 1 core leverage ratio was 5.4%. on Sept. 30, and its total risk-based capital ratio was 10.55%. The OTS wants those figures at 7% and 12%.

The privately held company has not published its fourth-quarter results and capital ratios. Ms. Winfield would not say what their ratios would be after the deal closes.

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