Niagara, on Buying Spree in N.Y., Agrees to Buy Iroquois Bancorp

Niagara Bancorp, which has been expanding in upstate New York, announced Monday that it has agreed to acquire Iroquois Bancorp of Auburn for $80.3 million in cash.The buyer has $1.7 billion of assets and the seller $595 million. Iroquois operates two banks and 13 branches.

Niagara said it would pay $33.25 per Iroquois share - just under two times book and 16.9 times earnings. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter.

William E. Swan, Niagara's president and chief executive officer, said Iroquois would strengthen his company's network of community banks. Iroquois' lead bank, Cayuga Bank, would operate under its own name as a Niagara subsidiary.

Richard D. Callahan, Iroquois' president and chief executive officer, would hold those titles at Cayuga, whose board would be restructured to include Niagara representatives.

Branches of Iroquois' other holding, Homestead Savings, would be evaluated after the sale and either merged into Cayuga or sold, according to Leslie G. Garrity, banking officer and public relations manager at Niagara.

Niagara recently acquired Albion Banc Corp. of Rochester and announced plans to buy CNY Financial Corp. of Cortland in the second quarter.

- Eric Winig

Haven of N.Y. to Eliminate Jobs, Hires Lehman to Explore Options

Under shareholder pressure to improve its performance or sell itself, Haven Bancorp of Westbury, N.Y., said it is cutting jobs and has hired Lehman Brothers Inc. to advise it on "strategic alternatives."The $2.9 billion-asset thrift company owns CFS Bank, which has eight branches and 62 supermarket locations

Haven did not say how many jobs would be cut, but it did say the move would save $7 million a year. The plan was announced Friday.

The company also said it has formed a three-person committee of outside directors to work with Lehman.

PL Capital LLC of Chatnam, N.J., which owns 6.3% of Haven, has been pressuring it to find a buyer. It has expressed disappointment with Haven's financial performance and the high cost of the supermarket branches.

PL Capital also hopes to win seats on Haven's board at the company's annual meeting this spring, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The job-cut announcement gave a big boost to Haven's stock Friday; it climbed more than 9%, to close at $15.375. At midday Monday it was trading at $15.125, down 1.63%.

- Veronica Agosta

N.J.'s Vista Takes Brand-Name Route, Will Combine Pa., New Jersey Banks

Vista Bancorp of Phillipsburg, N.J., said it plans to unite its two banks under the Vista brand name.Vista Bank would have 15 branches, nine in northwestern New Jersey and six in eastern Pennsylvania.

The existing banks are $465 million-asset Phillipsburg National Bank and Trust Co. in New Jersey and $196 million-asset Twin Rivers Community Bank of Easton, Pa.

"Our holding company has always been Vista, and customers are familiar with that name," said Barbara Harding, Vista Bancorp's president and chief executive officer. "We wanted a new name yet one people were familiar with."

The consolidation is expected to be completed in the third quarter.

- Veronica Agosta

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