ATLANTA -- Stockholders have "received a king's ransom" for their bank holdings in a burst of mergers and acquisitions in the Southeast and the District of Columbia, a new study says.

Tom Schlesinger of the Southern Finance Project, a group based in Charlotte, studied bank acquisitions in eight Southeastern states and the District.

"In the 57 interstate deals where data were available, acquirers paid a total of $7.4 billion. On average, these payments equaled 2.6 times the book value of each acquired bank or bank holding company," Schlesinger wrote in his report.

The study included bank acquisitions in Washington, D.C., Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

It says holding companies based in North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia have led the way in acquiring other banks, but that Georgia is the only one of those states in which a significant amount of bank deposits are owned by holding companies from other states.

The study says non-Georgia firms now control 28.5 percent of the state's deposits and 26.9 percent of bank assets. In contrast, no out-of-state bank has holdings in North Carolina, and only 7.48 percent of Virginia's deposits and 0.7 percent of assets are held by out-of-state banks.

Depositors in South Carolina are most likely to have their money controlled by outsiders, the study said, with 48.6 percent of deposits held by holding companies based out of state. North Carolina banks control 26.5 percent while Georgia banks have 22.1 percent.

The District of Columbia was next with 40 percent, 24.7 percent by Maryland banks. Then came Tennessee, 31.2 percent; Florida, 31.2 percent; and Maryland, 20.7 percent.

North Carolina banks have control of 8.9 percent of deposits outside their state, followed by Georgia, 8.59 percent; Virginia, 4.28 percent; Maryland, 0.97 percent; and Florida, 0.18 percent. No banks based in South Carolina or Tennessee control deposits in other states.

Alabama's law permitting regional banking went into effect July 1, and none of that state's banks have been bought, although Alabama-based companies control 0.33 percent of Florida's deposits.

First Union Corp., based in Charlotte, has acquired 16 banks or bank holding companies with $10.4 billion in assets since the U.S. Supreme Court June 1985 decision upholding the constitutionality of interstate banking agreements.

The study does not include the merger of Trust Co. Bank of Georgia with Sun Banks Inc. of Orlando, Fla., which was completed prior to the decision.

Schlesinger said the project now will turn its attention on studying the implications of the shift of assets, including whether it helps bridge the economic gap between urban and rural areas in the South.

The Southern Finance Project is sponsored by the Institute for Southern Studies, a nonprofit research and publications center based in Durham, N.C. Schlesinger's findings are published in the center's publication, Southern Exposure.endqua