Independent Bank Corp. in Rockland, Mass., which historically has been methodical in its approach to acquisitions, is looking more and more like a dealmaker.
Though its deal for Benjamin Franklin Bancorp Inc., announced late Sunday, would be just its second acquisition in roughly a year, Christopher Oddleifson, its chief executive, said Monday that it intends to be "opportunistic" with future deals.
"We do not have a roll-up strategy," Mr. Oddleifson said in a conference call with analysts Monday. However, "when franchises that complement ours become available, we want to be at the table having the conversation."
Before buying the $601 million-asset Slades Ferry Bancorp Inc. nine months ago, the $3.5 billion-asset Independent had made just one whole-bank acquisition this decade, buying the $154 million-asset Falmouth Bancorp on Cape Cod in 2004.
Bryce Rowe, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co., said Independent, the parent of Rockland Trust Co., is in a strong position to make acquisitions because some large companies that had been active acquirers are out of the market. (His firm advised Independent on the Benjamin Franklin deal.)
He also said he would expect sellers to be attracted to Independent, because it is one of the region's healthiest companies and "has managed its capital well."
Benjamin Franklin, a thrift company, has also weathered the economic downturn well, reporting strong earnings, deposit, and loan growth in the third quarter. But Claire S. Bean, its chief financial officer, said in an interview Monday that the offer from Independent was too compelling to ignore.
Shareholders, she said, would gain ownership in "a high-performing bank," while customers would have access to a wider array of products and services — particularly in wealth management.
Regulatory costs were also starting to catch up with Benjamin Franklin, she added. "When you are our size, you get hit with all the costs of a bank that is $5 billion. In times as complex as these, scale is a good thing."
Independent would pay the equivalent $15.77 a share for Benjamin Franklin, or 1.73 times its tangible book value. That is in line with the average for thrift deals announced this year, according to an analysis by Carson Medlin Co.
Independent's shares fell 6.5% Monday, to close at $25. Benjamin Franklin's rose 6.9%, to $13.95.
In perhaps a sign of the times, Mr. Oddleifson stressed that Benjamin Franklin is a vibrant company "that is growing in all the right areas" in the conference call. "This is by no means a troubled bank takeover."
Independent's Rockland Trust is a fixture in southeastern Massachusetts, and its acquisition of Benjamin Franklin would give it 11 branches in affluent suburbs west and southwest of Boston that Mr. Oddleifson said "are universally viewed as the most superb markets in the state."
Mr. Oddleifson said he is particularly enthused about the opportunities the deal would create for Independent's fast-growing wealth management unit.
He pointed out that the median household income in Benjamin Franklin's markets is $85,700, well above the statewide average of $68,200.
The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.