A longtime New Jersey thrift is planning to merge with an eight-year- old commercial bank and create a new bank holding company.

Little Falls (N.J.) Bancorp said it would buy Skylands Community Bank of Independence Township, N.J., in a deal valued at about $38 million.

The two companies plan to create a new commercial bank holding company of which Little Falls shareholders would own 57%, and Skylands shareholders, 43%.

However, the new company's bank subsidiary would retain the Skylands name, and Little Falls' branches would be renamed Skylands.

Little Falls, a thrift holding company with $351 million of assets, is the parent of 111-year-old Little Falls Bank. Skylands, founded in 1990, has about $162 million of assets.

The new company would have 12 branches and be based in Hackettstown, N.J. Little Falls chairman Albert Weite would become chairman of the new company, and Skylands president Michael Halpin would become its president and chief executive officer.

The deal is expected to close late this year or early next.

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