North Fork Won't Raise Bid for Dime

MELVILLE, N.Y. - North Fork Bancorp said Thursday that it has no plans to raise its $1.88 billion bid for Dime Bancorp and would not consider entering into a three-way merger with Dime and Hudson United Bancorp.North Fork is locked in a fierce proxy battle with Dime, whose shareholders are scheduled to meet next Friday to vote on a merger with Mahwah, N.J.-based Hudson United. North Fork, which launched its unsolicited move for Dime over a week ago and began formally soliciting Dime shareholders for their proxies Wednesday, said it would only go through with the deal if Dime's merger with Hudson United falls through.

In a statement, North Fork also disputed an earlier statement by Dime about negotiations between the two companies in 1998. Dime said the two "mutually" decided against a combination. North Fork's chairman John Adam Kanas said Thursday that the statement "is patently untrue."

- Liz Moyer

MBNA, Ala.'s Regions in $300M Card Deal

WILMINGTON, Del. - MBNA Corp. said Thursday that it would buy Regions Financial Corp.'s $300 million credit card portfolio. Under the agreement, MBNA would continue to issue credit cards in Regions' name and would market additional products to the Birmingham, Ala., bank's customers. Regions said it has 300,000 credit card accounts.The acquisition is expected to close this month. Regions said it expects to get a pretax gain of around $67 million from the sale.

"Given the changes and consolidation in the credit card industry and the scale required to be competitive over the long term in the credit card business, we feel that partnering with MBNA will improve the long-term profitability of Regions' credit card business and is the right solution for our customers," said Carl E. Jones Jr., president and chief executive officer of Regions.

- Miriam Kreinin Souccar

Richmond of N.Y. Buying New Jersey S&L

Richmond County Financial Corp. of Staten Island, N.Y., announced plans late Wednesday to acquire South Jersey Financial Corp. Inc. in Turnersville for $68 million in cash.Buying the company - the holding company of $330 million-asset South Jersey Savings and Loan Association - would extend Richmond County's reach into southern New Jersey, where it has originated more than $54 million of loans.

Michael F. Manzulli, Richmond County's chairman and chief executive officer, said the company was attracted to South Jersey's core deposits and "highly liquid assets."

Richmond County, which has $2.9 billion of assets, would pay $20 - or 1.28 times book value - for each South Jersey share held. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter.

South Jersey's stock soared on the news of the deal. In heavy trading, its shares closed Thursday at $19, up 13.86%. Richmond County's stock price was unchanged, at $17.

- Veronica Agosta

Frontier of Wash. Purchasing In-State Bank

Frontier Financial Corp. in Everett, Wash., said late Wednesday that it has agreed to buy Liberty Bay Financial Corp. in Poulsbo, Wash., for $39.7 million in stock.Liberty Bay, the parent of North Sound Bank, has $180 million of assets and eight branches in and around the Seattle area's Olympic Peninsula. The acquisition would boost Frontier's assets to $1.5 billion and give it 33 branches in eight western Washington counties.

Under the pooling-of-interests agreement, Frontier would exchange 10.5 shares of its stock for each share of Liberty Bay stock. The deal, expected to close in the third quarter, would equal 1.9 times Liberty Bay's book value and 15.1 times its 1999 earnings.

The announcement comes just weeks after the termination of a planned merger of $180 million-asset Liberty Bay and $2 billion-asset Interwest Bancorp of Oak Harbor, Wash. The two abandoned the $49 million deal after regulators said Interwest would have to divest at least one Liberty Bay branch.

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