READING -- Meridian Bancorp and United Counties Bancorp. said they had extended their letter of intent to merge to Dec. 12. Both bank holding companies said they have completed their due-diligence processes and are now negotiating the definitive merger agreement.

United Counties is a $1.6 billion-asset bank holding company based in Cranford, N.J., with 36 branches in Middlesex, Monmouth, Mores, Somerset, and Union counties.

Meridian Bancorp, with $14.8 billion in assets, has 333 bank branches throughout the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware.

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