Community Bank System to Buy Biggest Bank in Vermont

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Community Bank System in Syracuse, N.Y., has agreed to buy Merchants Bancshares in South Burlington, Vt.

The $8.7 billion-asset Community Bank System said in a press release Monday that it will pay $304 million, or $44.02 a share, in cash and stock for the $1.9 billion-asset Merchants. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

Community Bank System said the deal should be accretive to 2018 earnings by about 10 cents a share, which takes into consideration the costs of crossing over $10 billion in assets.

Merchants is the biggest bank in Vermont, in terms of deposit market share. The company has 32 branches and $1.5 billion in deposits.

Geoffrey Hesslink, Merchants' president and CEO, will become Community Bank System's New England regional president.

RBC Capital Markets and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft advised Community Bank System. Piper Jaffray and Goodwin Procter advised Merchants.

Separately, Community Bank System reported that its third-quarter earnings rose 8.5% from a year earlier, to $27.2 million. Total revenue increased 16% to $108.4 million, while noninterest expenses rose 20% to $66.2 million. The results partially reflected the company's purchase of Oneida Financial.

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