Center Bancorp (CNBC) in Union, N.J., has agreed to buy ConnectOne Bancorp (CNOB) in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Center will pay about $243 million ConnectOne, which just held its initial public offering last year. The company will have $3 billion in assets, $2.3 billion in deposits and 24 branches when the deal is completed. The transaction is expected to close by the third quarter.

Center said the acquisition should generate about $7 million in annual costs savings, or roughly 14% of combined expenses. The deal should also be accretive to both companies' 2015 earnings per share, excluding opportunities for added revenue.

"This merger creates value for the shareholders, customers and employees of both companies, while continuing to be an important contributor to the communities in which we operate," Anthony Weagley, Center's chief executive, said in a press release Tuesday. "The compatible cultures of our two organizations make this partnership a natural fit. We are excited about our combined growth prospects and believe we are well positioned in the marketplace to continue our industry leading growth."

Frank Sorrentino, ConnectOne's chairman and CEO, will become chairman, president and CEO of the company. Weagley will become chief operating officer. The board will be equally divided between Center and ConnectOne directors.

The company will continue to operating as ConnectOne and Center's Union Center National Bank will merge into ConnectOne Bank.

Keefe, Bruyette & Woods was Center's financial advisor; Lowenstein Sandler served as legal counsel. FinPro Capital Advisors was ConnectOne's financial advisor, while Raymond James rendered a fairness opinion. Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendorf and Sullivan & Cromwell were ConnectOne's legal counsel.

The $1.7 billion-asset Center reported Tuesday that its fourth-quarter earnings rose 12% from a year earlier, to $5 million. The $1.2 billion-asset ConnectOne also reported increased profit Tuesday; its fourth-quarter earnings rose 24% from a year earlier, to $2.9 million.

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