A Massachusetts thrift company said Monday that it seems headed for a proxy fight now that a dissident investment group has rejected its compromise offer.

People's Bancshares of New Bedford said that it had offered to nominate one board member from RCG Kingston Fund Ltd., a dissident faction that owns 9.2% of $1 billion-asset People's.

Kingston has demanded that the company either sell itself or give it three seats on the 10-member board. Richard S. Straczynski, president and chief executive officer of People's, said its management and board are prepared to "vigorously oppose Kingston's proxy fight for control of our company."

"We believe that this group's persistent refusals offer clear evidence that it is not concerned with enhancing value for all stockholders, but is only focused on its own short-term self-interest," he said.

Kingston has said in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it believes the company's operating strategy is flawed. The group has complained that the company's shares trade below its peers' on a price-to-earnings basis.

- Craig Woker

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