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Old-line Md. bank becomes a branch

The Baltimore Sun

The bank that some of Baltimore's best-known captains of industry and finance entrusted with their money for more than 143 years ceased to exist yesterday as PNC Financial Services Group announced it has completed its $6 billion cash and stock purchase of Mercantile Bankshares Corp.

In a statement announcing the sale's completion, the Pittsburgh bank said customers of Mercantile and its network of affiliate banks should continue to use Mercantile's services "as usual" in the months leading up to a planned transition to PNC accounts.

PNC expects to take down Mercantile signs and switch customers to the merged bank's systems in September, after a lengthy employee training program and customer education campaign.

"Obviously, we're pleased it has gone this quickly and this smoothly," said Brian Goerke, a PNC spokesman.

"We feel like we're in a good position to now focus on what we need to do to get to September and make sure it's as smooth and easy as possible for customers."

Mercantile officials declined to comment on the closing yesterday, referring questions to PNC.

Mercantile shareholders overwhelmingly approved the sale at a special meeting downtown Tuesday, clearing the way for a speedy closing of the transaction.

The deal was announced in October, ending years of speculation that Mercantile would soon join a long list of Maryland banks sold to out-of-state buyers as part of an industrywide consolidation trend.

Shareholders will receive 0.4184 PNC shares and $16.45 in cash for each share of Mercantile stock they own. Mercantile shares traded for the last time yesterday, ending the day at $45.98, down $1.03, or about 2 percent on a day when U.S. stocks fell to a three-month low. PNC shares fell 77 cents, or 1 percent, to close at $72.32 in trading yesterday.

Under the formula set forth in the merger agreement, about 54.2 million shares of PNC common stock may be issued and $2.13 billion paid in the merger.

The combined banks will have about $119 billion in assets and 1,092 branches. Mercantile had $17 billion in assets and 240 branches spread across Maryland, Washington, Northern Virginia, the Delmarva Peninsula and Pennsylvania.

PNC's Goerke said the bank would be launching a marketing campaign to reach out to customers and introduce the bank to Maryland.

The bank announced Tuesday that it will underwrite cheaper ticket prices for subscribers to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in keeping with its pledge to continue Mercantile's philanthropic involvement in the community.

"Our main objective here is to retain the customers and to show them the value that PNC will bring to their particular banking situation, as well as their community," Goerke said.


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