North Fork Bancorp was close to a deal Friday to buy JSB Financial Inc., a $1.6 billion-asset thrift based in Lynbrook, N.Y., for about $600 million, sources said. An announcement could come today.

Rumors have swirled for weeks that JSB, the parent of Jamaica Savings Bank FSB, was collecting bids from a half-dozen New York-area institutions. Sources familiar with the situation said JSB narrowed down its candidates over the last two weeks, with North Fork, Greenpoint Financial Corp., Astoria Financial Corp., and Dime Bancorp as finalists. Late last week, $11.5 billion-asset North Fork emerged as the front-runner.

Officials at North Fork, based in Melville, N.Y., had no comment. JSB Financial did not return telephone calls.

Spokesmen for New York-based Greenpoint and Lake Success, N.Y.-based Astoria had no comment. Executives from New York-based Dime could not be reached.

Analysts and investors in JSB Financial said the timing was right for a deal. JSB's chairman, Park T. Adikes, is 67 -years -old, has no clear successor, and lacks strong growth prospects. They are going to hit the proverbial revenue wall,'' said Salvatore Di Martino, an analyst at Advest Inc.

Mr. Adikes has maintained a low profile over the years, shunning deals as other New York-area thrifts sought to expand.

Mr. Adikes knows he's in the eighth inning of a nine-inning game,'' said Thomas Graham Kahn, president of Kahn Brothers & Co., a New York investment firm that owns over 150,000 shares of JSB Financial.

JSB has $1.3 billion in deposits and 13 branches, 10 of which are in Queens. North Fork and its rival banks and thrifts have been snapping up smaller thrifts in the region for several years, picking up low-cost deposits and new customers, and slashing costs.

Analysts said price has been JSB's biggest stumbling block. Mr. Adikes was said to have wanted between $80 and $90 a share for his bank, which has been trading at around $55 a share recently. Analysts said a price tag in the low- to mid-$60 range was more likely.

Shares of JSB closed Friday up 75 cents, to $58.750. Shares of North Fork closed up 68.75 cents, to $20.4375.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.