National Penn Bancshares has a unusual distinction: For three years running, stock in the Boyertown, Pa.based super community bank was trading at an astounding -- for a bank three times book value. Although the stock fell from those lofty heights a few months ago, it recently has been trading at nearly 2.5 times book. "At the beginning, I explained it as an acquisition premium;' said Anat Bird, managing partner with Financial Management Advisors, a New York consulting firm. But over time, she came to believe the stock price was too high for too long to simply be attributed to a built-in takeover premium.

So what is the secret of National Penn's success? Wayne R. Weidner, president and chief executive of National Penn Bank, the lead affiliate, says it's due to net interest margins that have been at or above 6.00% for three years, the sales culture it has built over the last decade, lean staffing, a series of aggressive but prudent acquisitions, and the stability of the markets where it does business.

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