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PNC Financial

(PNC) - Get PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. Report

is expanding its reach across the East Coast in a $6 billion deal to buy

Mercantile Bankshare

(MRBK) - Get Meridian Corporation Report

.

Pittsburgh-based PNC, in announcing the deal Monday, says it will pay $47.24 a share for Mercantile, which is based in Baltimore. The deal is one of the biggest in the banking sector this year.

The merger, based on Mercantile's Friday closing price of $36.78, represents a 28% premium.

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The acquistion comes shortly after the closing a $10 billion deal between

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

and

BlackRock

(BLK) - Get BlackRock, Inc. Report

to merge some of the asset-management operations. PNC, prior to that deal, had been a majority shareholder of BlackRock, and the transaction boosted the value of PNC's shares.

PNC, over the past two years, has been moving to build up its presence in the Washington, D.C., and Maryland area. Last year it acquired scandal-tarred Riggs National, a Washington-area bank.

Mercantile has $17 billion in assets and 237 branches in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. PNC is strongest in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.