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First Md. hopes to challenge NationsBank


NEW YORK -- Although NationsBank Corp. will be a tough competitor once it completes its purchase of MNC Financial Inc., First Maryland Bancorp has its own expansion plans and hopes to become the state's biggest bank, its owners said yesterday.

Speaking before 50 Wall Street analysts, top managers of Allied Irish Bank, which owns First Maryland, said they hoped to acquire new companies in the Mid-Atlantic region in a bid to challenge NationsBank for Marylanders' banking business.

"NationsBank will be bigger [initially], but that will be offset by the fact that we will be the largest locally managed bank. That will give our branches a scarcity value as other [local] banks disappear," First Maryland Chairman Jeremiah E. Casey said.

First Maryland's principal subsidiary is the First National Bank of Maryland. It has 165 branches and employs 5,000. Last year, the bank reported record earnings of $92.5 million, up 23 percent over 1991.

First Maryland trails MNC in total retail customer deposits and would be set even further behind once NationsBank's Maryland operations are pooled with MNC's. As of June 30, 1992, MNC had $8.7 billion in deposits for a 13.4 percent share of Maryland financial institutions; NationsBank, $3.4 billion in deposits, 5.3 percent share; First Maryland, $5.1 billion in deposits, 7.9 percent share.

Although Mr. Casey said he could not announce specific plans to challenge NationsBank, he said that beside sales growth, First Maryland would like to grow by buying companies worth $2 billion to $3 billion. Companies any bigger, he said, would be on the level of a merger, something Allied Irish does not foresee.

"We do not believe in growth for growth's sake," Mr. Casey said. "We believe in sound, conservative growth."

Allied Irish managers made the trip to New York to pitch their company to Wall Street in hopes of finding new stockholders. They donned St. Patrick's Day green and plied the analysts with Irish food and drink while repeating their message that they were a sound investment.

The company's stock closed yesterday at $20.375, down 12.5 cents.

Company managers said First Maryland, which represents all their U.S. operations, is important for Allied Irish's diversification plans.

A key to success in the United States, they said, was that First Maryland has enough autonomy to be considered locally managed. This would allow the company to read the Maryland market better than North Carolina-based NationsBank, they said.

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