With the prior approval of the superintendent, an Alabama state bank may establish, maintain, and operate one or more branches in a state other than Alabama or a foreign country on a de novo basis, by acquisition of a branch, or pursuant to an interstate merger transaction in which the Alabama state bank is the resulting bank. For an interstate merger transaction and not later than the date on which the required application for the interstate merger transaction is filed with the responsible federal bank supervisory agency, the applicant Alabama state bank shall file an application on a form prescribed by the superintendent and pay the fee prescribed by the superintendent. The applicant shall also comply with the applicable provisions of Alabama law governing mergers of Alabama state banks. If the superintendent finds that (1) the proposed interstate merger transaction will not be detrimental to the safety and soundness of the applicant or the resulting bank, (2) any new officers and directors of the resulting bank are qualified by character, experience, and financial responsibility to direct and manage the resulting bank, and (3) the proposed interstate merger transaction is consistent with the convenience and needs of the communities to be served by the resulting bank in this state and is otherwise in the public interest, the superintendent shall approve the interstate merger transaction and the operation of branches outside of Alabama by the Alabama state bank. Such an interstate merger transaction may be consummated only after the applicant has received the superintendent's written approval.