First Financial Bancorp said Monday it will buy 17 of Peoples’ 19 branches in southwestern Ohio and southeastern Indiana.

First Financial will pay about $12 million for the branches, assuming about $310 million in deposits and about $260 million in loans. The bank said in a news release that the loan portfolio consists of residential real estate loans, none of which are more than 30 days delinquent.

The purchase of these 17 banking centers is aligned with First Financial's growth strategy of expanding its presence in both existing and adjacent markets.

Cincinnati-based First Financial is the sixth-largest bank in the Dayton area with $1.18 billion in deposits, 30 branches and 500 local employees.

In Southwest Ohio, First Financial will acquire eight branches in Hamilton County, three in Butler County and two in Warren County. In southeastern Indiana, it will acquire three branches in Dearborn County and one in Ohio County. The branches will begin operating under the First Financial name as soon as the sale closes.

West Chester-based Peoples will continue to own and operate two branches in Lebanon and retain about $325 million in assets.

Claude Davis, president of First Financial, said the acquisition will double the bank’s branches in the Greater Cincinnati market.

“This purchase increases the number of First Financial branches in the Cincinnati MSA by 50% advancing our growth plans by several years, said Claude Davis, president and chief executive officer of First Financial Bancorp in a press release.

“The addition of these banking centers is a natural extension of our existing network and presents an excellent opportunity to extend First Financial Bank products and services to a larger client base,” added Davis.

The acquisition has been approved by the board of directors of both companies but is however subject to regulatory approval.