Moore Financial Group, the Boise-based owner of Continental Bank & Trust Co. in Salt Lake City, has reached a tentative agreement with federal regulators to expand its Utah operations by acquiring Tracy Collins Bank & Trust Co., officials announced Friday.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Moore said it would acquire about $200 million in selected assets and assume the same amount in deposit liabilities, in a deal subject to final approval by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Utah's Department of Financial Institutions.Although the purchase of Tracy Collins was handled by the FDIC, the bank is solvent and posts a positive net worth, said George Sutton, state commissioner of financial institutions.

Deposits at Tracy Collins are insured by the FDIC up to $100,000, and Moore will take over Tracy's trust department valued at about $3 million.

"This is an opportunity for Moore Financial Group to achieve significant operational efficiencies by merging the purchased assets into Continental Bank and Trust," Moore president D. Michael Jones said. "This purchase will provide good earnings potential in line with our stated acquisition criteria."

Bank analyst Jay Tejera of Dains Bosworth Inc. in Seattle agreed, saying Moore has stepped up out-of-state acquisitions to make up for sagging returns of its flagship operation, Idaho First National Bank.

He said the purchase of Tracy Collins would also strengthen Continental's position in Utah, particularly along the Wasatch Front.

"Tracy Collins will allow for more overhead absorption and make the existing operation more profitable. Moore needs to do this type of thing."

He explained that Moore needs the economies of scale that go along with growth and that the best way to grow in Utah is by acquisition of an existing deposit base, trust account and assets.

Tracy Collins has 18 branches in Utah, filling in holes left by Continental's small network of 13 outlets. The purchase will boost Continental's assets of $410 million to $610 million.

Tracy Collins also has newer offices at a prime downtown location of First South and Main Street.

Rumors have circulated that eventually Continental would move from its fully depreciated building on the corner of Second South and Main into the newer Tracy Collins building.

Although Moore didn't discuss the future of Tracy's existing management in their announcement, Tejera said the new parent is a "fairly benevolent acquirer."

"Their style is to leave people in place," he said.

In any case, the acquisition will have a positive effect for Tracy Collins, which has been clouded by uncertainty and speculation for the past five years.

"The last several years have been difficult for Tracy due to problems relating to ownership of the bank," bank president C.R. Canfield said.

The century-old institution made headlines in 1982 when local attorney John Dalhstrom acquired it. Dahlstrom's personal debts prevented him from selling the bank to Zions Bancorp in 1985.

A year later, he defaulted on the $15.5 million loan he took out to buy the bank, and ownership of Tracy Collins went to the lender, RepublicBank in Dallas, Texas.

Facing its own troubles, RepublicBank has tried to sell Tracy Collins to several interested parties, including Valley Bank & Trust and Citibank.

Sutton said the FDIC stepped into sale negotiations when it appeared confusion resulting from the collapse of RepublicBank could prevent a final sale from happening.

Moore didn't come into the bidding process until last spring, Canfield said, noting the failure of RepublicBank in August made a change in ownership inevitable.