People’s Bancshares in New Bedford, Mass., which for months has been pressured by shareholders to find a buyer, said it had recently hired the New York investment bank Fox-Pitt, Kelton to explore “strategic alternatives.”

The $1 billion-asset company, which has been plagued by regulatory concerns about capital ratios and its concentration of trust-preferred securities, included the announcement in its earnings report Friday. Net income for 2000 was down 10% to $8.3 million, mainly because of the sale of investment securities and an $850,000 increase in loan-loss reserves, the company said.

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