Beneficial Mutual Bancorp's long-awaited announcement came Thursday: the Philadelphia-based mutual thrift plans to convert to a publicly owned company.

Though the move had been expected eventually, the timing was unclear given market conditions and a government investigation of the $4.4 billion-asset company. It announced a year ago that the Justice Department was conducting a probe into its residential real estate lending after a referral from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. But that probe is now concluded, Beneficial said.

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