After spending most of last year buying banks, New Jersey's Hubco Inc. is pausing this year to rename them.

The Mahwah-based company confirmed this week that it will combine its three banks under one name and charter. The new name will be unveiled the week of March 21.

Word that a new moniker was in the works leaked out after the holding company included a request in its 1999 proxy statement to shareholders for a name change from Hubco to Hudson United Bancorp.

Hubco, with $6.8 billion of assets, has 160 branches in three states. It operates as Hudson United Bank in New Jersey, Lafayette American Bank in Connecticut, and Bank of the Hudson in New York.

Ken Neilson, president and chief executive officer of Hubco, said the consolidation is a way to unite a company strung together through 25 acquisitions in the past eight years. For the first time, a Hubco customer from New Jersey would be able to use a branch in Connecticut, for example.

It will also let the company broaden its marketing, he added.

"We operate in one advertising market, but because we have three names, it is difficult to make use of the media," Mr. Neilson said.

John Kline, an analyst at Sandler O'Neill & Partners in New York, applauded the change.

"They have built a great franchise, and now they want to rationalize it," he said, adding that a single charter should also save on regulatory costs.

In 1998, Hubco bought seven banks and 23 First Union branches. It has deals pending to buy $341 million-asset Little Falls (N.J.) Bancorp and the banking operations of First National Bank of New England in Hartford, Conn.

Mr. Neilson also said that Hubco has slowed its dealmaking for the time being. Uncertainty over year-2000 readiness of some potential targets makes him hesitant to pursue any deal until the third quarter.

Deals made in that quarter would not close until after the millennium computer change-over.

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