After sitting on a mountain of capital for nearly seven years, Kearny Financial Corp. of Fairfield, N.J., announced late Tuesday that it has agreed to buy Central Jersey Bancorp for $72.3 million in cash.

The $2.2 billion-asset mutual holding company hasn't acquired another institution since 2003 and has been hoarding capital ever since.

Kearny Financial had a total risk-based capital ratio of 38.1% on March 31, which was down from its peak of a stunning 51% in September 2005.

"The capital ratio is incredible," said Ken Thomas, an independent banking consultant and economist in Miami. "They're making money, they have minimal chargeoffs; basically they can do whatever they want."

The acquisition would position Kearny to be a major player in Monmouth County, an important territory with a sizable share of the state's deposits.

Currently, Monmouth County is the only gap in Kearny's New Jersey network as it has no branches there. The $571 million-asset Central Jersey Bank has 13 branches in the county and one in Ocean County, where Kearny already has operations

"The combination will accomplish several strategic goals by enhancing our community banking expertise, expanding our franchise in two highly attractive counties, increasing earnings and deploying our capital," John N. Hopkins, Kearny's chief executive, said in a press release Tuesday.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

The buyer's thrift unit, Kearny Federal Savings Bank, would move up to 10th in deposit market share for Monmouth County. The county has more than $17 billion in deposits.

Thomas said the acquisition also would provide an appealing local name to New Jersey residents — the offices will operate as "Central Jersey Bank, a Division of Kearny Federal Savings Bank" — in an area where the market is dominated by banks based in New York City.

Kearny will pay 156% of Central Jersey's tangible book value, or $7.50 a share. James S. Vaccaro, Central Jersey's chief executive, said the deal is a highly favorable one for Central Jersey shareholders.

Central Jersey has been through this before. In May 2009 it announced its sale to OceanFirst Financial Corp. in Toms River, N.J., but that deal fell through.

"It's been no secret that Central Jersey has been available for sale for a number of years now, and has been down this path a couple of times," said Robert Kafafian, the president of Kafafian Group in Parsippany, N.J. "Maybe it looks like this time they've finally got one that will work for them."

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