Astoria Financial, a New York City- area thrift under pressure from activist investor Basswood Capital Management to boost the share price, is exploring a sale, according to people familiar with the matter. The stock climbed as much as 6.2%.
The lender, which has 87 branches and a market value of about $1.7 billion, is working with Sandler O’Neill & Partners on the potential sale, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter hasn’t been made public
A representative for Astoria Financial had no immediate comment, and Sandler O’Neill didn’t return calls for comment.
Takeovers of small banks have been accelerating this year as bigger players look for growth while dealing with low interest rates that make it hard to make money on loans. BB&T in August agreed to pay $1.8 billion for National Penn Bancshares, and First Niagara Financial Group hired an adviser to explore a sale, people briefed on the matter said in September.
Astoria Financial rose 3.2% to $17.62 at 12:46 p.m. in New York, after climbing as high as $18.13. The shares gained 38% in the 12 months through Thursday.
Basswood reported a 9.22% stake in the Lake Success, N.Y.-based company in August, saying in a regulatory filing that it was seeking a seat on its board.
Astoria Financial, which has $15.3 billion in assets and $9.2 billion in deposits, is the 15th-largest bank by deposits in the New York City metro area, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. Primarily a home lender, Astoria Financial in recent years has been seeking to expand its share of the region’s competitive market for apartment-building mortgages.
Profit fell about 6% from a year earlier in the first half of 2015, to $50.7 million, according to its second-quarter report.