First Niagara Financial Group Inc. is exploring a sale of the firm or other opportunities, according to people briefed on the matter. The bank holding company's shares rose in extended trading.

First Niagara, based in Buffalo, New York, hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to advise on possible moves, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private. The firm has a market value of about $3.18 billion, based on the number of shares outstanding at the end of the second quarter.

The company has nearly 400 branches in New York State, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. It was the worst-performer in the KBW Bank Index last year before it was removed from the 24-company group.

First Niagara climbed 7.1 percent to $9.60 at 5:38 p.m. in New York. The shares increased 6.3 percent this year through the end of regular trading.

DealReporter said earlier that the bank had contacted possible buyers. New York Community Bancorp, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Huntington Bancshares Inc. were among possible suitors, DealReporter reported earlier.

First Niagara has grappled with rising costs, including an increase in reserves to address a "process issue" that affected some deposit accounts, and has said that expenses would climb as it spends money to improve technology systems.

Dave Lanzillo, a First Niagara spokesman, said the bank doesn't "comment on rumors." JPMorgan's Tasha Pelio declined to comment.

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.