When the $2.5 billion deal was proposed last November, bank-watchers figured it would take more than a year for the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to decide whether to let North Carolina's $189 billion BB&T Corp. to buy Pennsylvania's $19 billion Susquehanna Bancshares. Bank Feds have been deal-shy since the 2008 financial-markets blow-up revealed how shaky merger-bloated banks like Wachovia Corp. had become. Locally, Vernon Hill's Republic/Metro tie-up was one of several deals Washington delayed until they got cancelled.

Surprise: On Tuesday, BB&T said the feds have approved the Susquehanna buy, which is now expected to close Aug. 1. "The Fed's approval of this acquisition potentially bodes well for other pending deals," writes Sameer Gokhale, analyst at Janney Capital Markets. "Regulators may be becoming more comfortable" that bank deals in the mere $billions and $10billions "do not increase systemic risk." Maybe they'll even approve M&T's long-delayed Hudson City Bancorp deal to enter New Jersey, he adds.

BB&T has named Scott Gamble, who joined Susquehanna Bank as its Philadelphia-are "market CEO" last year, as its head in this region. BB&T plans to keep Susquehanna branch staff and loan officers, while its Lancaster-area headquarters and back office staff face $160 million in yearly expense cuts. Gamble, of Malvern, also headed National Penn Bank's Philadelphia-area operation. He earlier worked at Santander, Fleet and PNC. He's a graduate of Grove City College, that longtime capitalist bastion in Western Pennsylvania.

But are there really a lot more bank mergers in the pipeline? "BB&T is among the few large banks that is continuing to pursue a strategy of growth via acquisitions," with blessing from Federal Reserve capital-counters, writes Kathleen Shanley, bond analyst at Gimme Credit LLC.