N.H. Pension Fund to Join Bid for 3 Thrifts

The New Hampshire Retirement System has agreed to join a group that plans to bid on three ailing New Hampshire financial institutions next month.

The group, to be led by William Craig, a former vice chairman of Shawmut National Corp., has raised about $52 million to finance its proposal to acquire Dartmouth Bancorp, New Hampshire Savings Bank Corp., and Numerica Financial Corp. The institutions are expected to be seized by regulators and sold by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Russell Kamp, a consultant for the retirement fund's investments, said the retirement system agreed earlier this month to invest up to 15% of the $75 million in equity planned for the new entity, which will be called New Dartmouth Bancorp.

Mr. Kamp, a vice president and partner of Evaluation Associates, an asset consulting firm, called the move "a wise investment decision that would also be beneficial to the state."

Spirited Bidding Expected

Mr. Craig's group, which is being advised by Kidder, Peabody, may face spirited bidding for the institutions, which have assets of $2.4 billion and negative equity of $200 million.

The FDIC has moved the bidding date to Sept. 16 from Sept. 3. Sources close to the deal said the change probably was made to allow more bidders time to prepare their offers. The FDIC is said to be accepting separate bids for two ailing banks in the state.

"My guess is there are other bidders who didn't have their act together," said Jack Byrne, chairman of the board of Fund American Companies and a member of Mr. Craig's investor group.

The Interested Parties

Several commercial banks are expected to bid. A spokesman for KeyCorp said earlier this month that the Albany, N.Y., bank is considering expanding into New Hampshire, and Fleet/Norstar Financial Group's chief executive officer has repeatedly told investors he considers New Hampshire a logical place to expand.

First New Hampshire Bank, a subsidiary of the Bank of Ireland, is also said to be interested in bidding.

Aside from commercial banks, Harvard Management Corp., overseer of the $5 billion Harvard University endowment, has expressed interest in bidding on some or all of the troubled New Hampshire institutions. But it is not clear who it would install to run the new bank.

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