Two New York State community banks are joining forces in what they call a merger of equals.

Progressive Bank Inc., with $884 million of assets, and Hudson Chartered Bancorp, with $723 million of assets, said Tuesday they would merge under a new name, Premier National Bancorp.

Premier would be headquartered in Lagrangeville, where Hudson is based, and have its administrative offices in Fishkill, where Progressive is headquartered.

The transaction, expected to close in the second quarter, would create a bank with about $1.6 billion of assets and 38 branches.

John C. VanWormer, president of Hudson Chartered, said the merger agreement calls for each company's shareholders to own 50% of Premier's stock. "We see great opportunity in our two banks becoming a larger company," he said. "There are built-in cost savings, and at the same time we remain an independent bank in the community."

Mr. VanWormer said back-office consolidation is expected to reduce the bank's staff 10%, largely through attrition.

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