First Merchants Corporation, a financial holding company, and Lincoln Bancorp have executed a definitive agreement for First Merchants to acquire Lincoln Bancorp through a merger.

First Merchants and Lincoln will create a new financial holding company based in central Indiana, US. The combined company will have 82 banking offices in 23 Indiana and three Ohio counties, a trust company and a multi-line insurance agency.

The merger agreement provides that shareholders of Lincoln will have the right to elect to receive cash in the approximate amount of $15.76 per share, or 0.70 shares of First Merchants common stock for each share of Lincoln common stock owned by them, subject to proration as a result of a maximum limit on the aggregate number of shares issued or cash paid to all Lincoln shareholders.

The transaction is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2008, subject to the affirmative vote of Lincoln shareholders, regulatory approvals, and other customary conditions.

The corporation further announced that Michael Stewart, First Merchants’ chief banking officer, will also serve as the president of the newly consolidated First Merchants Bank of Central Indiana. Mike Baker and Jerry Engle will serve as regional presidents.

Sandler O’Neill & Partners served as the financial advisor to Lincoln Bancorp and its legal advisor was Bose McKinney & Evans. Bingham McHale acted as the legal advisor for First Merchants.

Mike Rechin, president and CEO of First Merchants, said: Lincoln’s franchise fits well with First Merchants’ strategic direction and specifically its presence in Johnson and Hendricks counties, two of Indiana’s fastest growing markets. The partnership between Lincoln and First Merchants provides Indiana business owners and consumers with the opportunity to bank with an Indiana company.