Fool readers know that I have no particular love for Regions Financial (NYSE:RF), but I'll compliment it in one regard -- it seems to be merging with a decent bank. This is still a generally tough environment for banks, but AmSouth (NYSE:ASO) is making something of a decent finish for itself as an independent company.

Of course, "decent" is a matter of perspective. Flat year-on-year net income is not exactly something to get all that excited about, particularly when net interest income was up about 5% and non-interest income was up about 4%. As you might guess, expenses grew and chewed up the benefit of that revenue growth.

Still, I find some reasons for praise. Overall loan growth of nearly 11% and deposit growth of better than 6% aren't so bad by today's standards. What's more, the company continues to see above-average results from its expansion efforts in Florida. Unlike Fifth Third (NASDAQ:FITB) and National City (NYSE:NCC), AmSouth seems to be making a good showing for itself with de novo expansion in this hot banking market.

Other metrics of bank performance also seem to be holding up at AmSouth. Returns on assets and equity didn't fall off too badly, considering the absence of income growth. Moreover, net interest margin basically held steady -- a pretty fair achievement given that many banks have seen tighter spreads between lending earnings and deposit costs.

Since there doesn't seem to be any obvious reason that the merger with Regions will be scuttled, you might think that there's no reason to be interested in these shares. I wouldn't automatically agree. If you have an interest in owning shares of Regions and/or think that the combined company will go on to accomplish good things for shareholders, take a closer look. After all, AmSouth shares are trading below the fair value of the deal, and since it's an all-stock transaction, you don't have to worry about being taxed on that small amount of free money. It's not a big return, but as our friends at Income Investor might say, when is free money ever a bad thing?

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).