Washington Mutual has agreed to buy Commercial Capital Bancorp for about $983 million to increase returns from real estate banking in California, the companies said yesterday.

Washington Mutual, the nation’s biggest U.S. savings and loan, said it will pay $16 a share in cash for Commercial Capital, California’s third-biggest lender to multifamily dwellings, including apartment buildings. That’s 13 percent more than Commercial Capital’s closing stock price of $14.25 on April 21, the company said.

Buying Irvine, Calif.-based Commercial Capital will bolster Seattle-based Washington Mutual in California, the company said.

WaMu has made more than 10 purchases during the past decade to extend its reach beyond single-family mortgages to credit cards and small-business loans, including the acquisition of credit-card issuer Providian Financial Corp. last year for $5.52 billion.

The newly announced takeover of Commercial Capital “provides us additional opportunities” to increase deposits and cross-sell consumer banking products in California, Kerry Killinger, WaMu’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. The deal will add 4 cents per share to 2007 earnings. It won’t affect this year’s profit, the company said.

Washington Mutual had $348.7 billion of assets at the end of March, compared with Commercial Capital’s $5.5 billion as of Dec. 31. Commercial Capital earned $15.1 million last year, down 25 percent from 2004.

Washington Mutual’s first-quarter home-lending income fell nearly tenfold, to $38 million, compared with $323 million during the same period last year, the company said last week. In February, WaMu said it would close 10 of its 26 home-loan processing centers, eliminating 2,500 jobs.

WaMu’s stock was trading at $44.27 mid-morning, down 74 cents a share.

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