Bear Hunter Specialists

, a joint venture of

Bear Stearns

( BSC) and

Hunter Partners

, agreed to acquire

Wagner Stott Mercator

, a

New York Stock Exchange

specialist firm, for $625 million.

Bear Hunter Specialists, also an NYSE specialist, said the combined firm will be renamed

Wagner Stott Bear Specialists

. The new firm will rank as the third largest Big Board specialist in terms of dollar volume traded and the fourth largest in terms of number of common stock listings.

Bear Stearns will own 49.8% of Wagner Stott Bear, and Hunter Partners will own 50.2%. Bear expects the acquisition to add immediately to diluted earnings per share. The company expects to close the transaction in the second quarter.

Shares of Bear Stearns recently rose 27 cents, or 0.5%, to $58.25.