Dime Reschedules Vote on Hudson Deal

NEW YORK - Dime Bancorp delayed a shareholder vote on its proposed merger with Hudson United Bancorp until March 24.Dime, which in September announced plans to combine with Mahwah, N.J.-based Hudson United, has been under attack this week through a $1.88 billion unsolicited takeover offer from rival North Fork Bancorp of Melville, N.Y.

The shareholder vote on the Dime-Hudson deal was originally scheduled for March 15, as was a Hudson United shareholder meeting. That meeting also has been rescheduled for March 24, Hudson said Thursday.

Both Dime and North Fork have been talking with Dime's institutional shareholders this week. Dime is urging investors to reject North Fork's hostile takeover attempt and support the merger with Hudson. North Fork is pushing for Dime shareholders to reject the Hudson deal.

- Liz Moyer

Citi Unit Pledges $400M to Realty Fund

NEW YORK - A Citigroup Inc. unit has committed $400 million to help a real estate finance firm headed by financier Sam Zell switch focus from lending and advisory work to making direct investments in real estate debt.Mr. Zell's Capital Trust Inc. said it has formed a $200 million fund, CT Mezzanine Partners I, and plans to raise $500 million for a second fund. It said the Citigroup unit is providing $250 million for the first fund and will provide $150 million for the second one.

Capital Trust's change in strategy follows a 17% drop in its share price last year and a 47% decline in 1998.

As part of the agreement, Citigroup acquired warrants to purchase 4.25 million Capital Trust class A common shares at $5 each, exercisable over five years. Capital Trust had about 22 million class A shares outstanding as of Nov. 11.

Marc Weill, chief executive of Citigroup Investments, and Michael Watson, senior vice president, were named to the company's board, bringing the number of directors to 12.

- Bloomberg News

Commerzbank Stock Up on HSBC Bid Rumor

FRANKFURT - Commerzbank AG shares rose to a record Thursday on a report that HSBC Holdings PLC, Europe's largest bank by market value, is preparing a hostile bid.The shares of Germany's fifth-largest bank were up 4.8% after surging as much as 13% earlier in the day. The German daily newspaper Die Welt reported that HSBC is preparing a takeover bid that could occur before Commerzbank holds its annual shareholders meeting May 27. The paper didn't identify its sources.

A Commerzbank spokesman called the report "pure speculation." HSBC refused to comment.

A group of investors has been buying packets of Commerzbank shares in preparation for the takeover attempt, Die Welt reported.

Following a takeover, HSBC would transform Commerzbank, handing its retail customers to an insurance partner, most likely Aachener & Muenchener Versicherung AG, a unit of Assicurazioni Generali SpA, the paper reported.

A takeover of Commerzbank would make sense, analysts said, and would be well timed on the heels of Deutsche Bank AG's agreement to buy smaller rival Dresdner Bank AG.

"Dresdner and Deutsche are too busy with themselves to offer the smaller rival any help now," said Britta Graf, an analyst at BNP Paribas, who has a "short-term buy" rating on Commerzbank.

"For HSBC, it would make sense - Comdirect is an attractive business, and they don't have a strong retail bank themselves."

- Bloomberg News

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