Two more major Southeast bank mergers were announced yesterday as so-called regional interstate banking began to pick up steam.

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that states could set up regional interstate banking compacts that would exclude banks not based in the region.

Yesterday, Wachovia Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., and First Atlanta Corp. of Georgia announced plans to merge and create First Wachovia Corp. The new bank company would have assets of $15.5 billion.

Meanwhile, another big North Carolina bank company, First Union Corp. of Charlotte, said it would acquire Atlantic Bancorp of Jacksonville, Fla. The combined bank companies would have assets of $14.4 billion.

G. J. Manderfield, president of Bethesda-based Suburban Bancorp, said there will be many more mergers among larger regional banks in the months to come as banks seek to make themselves bigger and more geographically diversified. He said that the early mergers, like those announced yesterday, will be among strong institutions seeking to make themselves stronger.

Maryland and Virginia -- like Florida, North Carolina and Georgia -- have approved regional bank legislation that includes 14 Southeastern states and the District of Columbia. A D.C. City Council committee has approved a regional banking bill as well, but the full council has not yet acted.

United Virginia Bank, the second-biggest in that state, has announced plans to merge with NS&T Corp., the District's fifth-biggest bank company. Several other mergers in the Southeast have been announced, and banking sources said that many more can be expected in coming months. "These are the first of many," Manderfield said.

Shareholders in Wachovia Corp. will receive one share of the new First Wachovia Corp. for each share of stock they own, while shareholders in First Atlanta will receive 0.8 share of First Wachovia stock. The new parent company will own 100 percent of the stock of Wachovia and of First Atlanta.

A spokesman for First Union said the Charlotte bank company will give shareholders in Atlanta Bancorp 1.05 shares of First Union stock for every share they own in the Georgia bank. He valued the deal at $496 million.

First Union had $7.9 billion in assets at the end of March but is in the middle of acquiring another North Carolina bank company -- Northwestern Financial Corp. of North Wilkesboro. Northwestern has assets of about $3.6 billion. First Atlanta has assets of $2.9 billion.

Both mergers announced yesterday need the approval of regulators.

The regional banking pacts are designed to permit banks within the member states to strengthen themselves before the expected arrival of full interstate banking. Many banks fear that, if their borders were opened to all states immediately, the big money center banks from New York, Chicago and California would overwhelm them.

Citicorp, the nation's biggest bank company, challenged regional banking compacts as unconstitutional restraints on trade, but the Supreme Court ruled last week that the compacts were legal. Nevertheless, most analysts and bankers think that full interstate banking will be a reality in several years. 2 Southeast Bank Mergers Set Regional Activity Picks Up Steam in Wake of Court Ruling By James L. Rowe Jr. Washington Post Staff Writer

Two more major Southeast bank mergers were announced yesterday as so-called regional interstate banking began to pick up steam.

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that states could set up regional interstate banking compacts that would exclude banks not based in the region.

Yesterday, Wachovia Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C., and First Atlanta Corp. of Georgia announced plans to merge and create First Wachovia Corp. The new bank company would have assets of $15.5 billion.

Meanwhile, another big North Carolina bank company, First Union Corp. of Charlotte, said it would acquire Atlantic Bancorp of Jacksonville, Fla. The combined bank companies would have assets of $14.4 billion.

G. J. Manderfield, president of Bethesda-based Suburban Bancorp, said there will be many more mergers among larger regional banks in the months to come as banks seek to make themselves bigger and more geographically diversified. He said that the early mergers, like those announced yesterday, will be among strong institutions seeking to make themselves stronger.

Maryland and Virginia -- like Florida, North Carolina and Georgia -- have approved regional bank legislation that includes 14 Southeastern states and the District of Columbia. A D.C. City Council committee has approved a regional banking bill as well, but the full council has not yet acted.

United Virginia Bank, the second-biggest in that state, has announced plans to merge with NS&T Corp., the District's fifth-biggest bank company. Several other mergers in the Southeast have been announced, and banking sources said that many more can be expected in coming months. "These are the first of many," Manderfield said.

Shareholders in Wachovia Corp. will receive one share of the new First Wachovia Corp. for each share of stock they own, while shareholders in First Atlanta will receive 0.8 share of First Wachovia stock. The new parent company will own 100 percent of the stock of Wachovia and of First Atlanta.

A spokesman for First Union said the Charlotte bank company will give shareholders in Atlanta Bancorp 1.05 shares of First Union stock for every share they own in the Georgia bank. He valued the deal at $496 million.

First Union had $7.9 billion in assets at the end of March but is in the middle of acquiring another North Carolina bank company -- Northwestern Financial Corp. of North Wilkesboro. Northwestern has assets of about $3.6 billion. First Atlanta has assets of $2.9 billion.

Both mergers announced yesterday need the approval of regulators.

The regional banking pacts are designed to permit banks within the member states to strengthen themselves before the expected arrival of full interstate banking. Many banks fear that, if their borders were opened to all states immediately, the big money center banks from New York, Chicago and California would overwhelm them.

Citicorp, the nation's biggest bank company, challenged regional banking compacts as unconstitutional restraints on trade, but the Supreme Court ruled last week that the compacts were legal. Nevertheless, most analysts and bankers think that full interstate banking will be a reality in several years.