WAYNE, N.J. -- Valley National Bancorp said it signed a letter of intent to acquire Rock Financial Corp. of North Plainfield, N.J., which would give Valley its first presence in the New Jersey counties of Middlesex, Somerset, and Union.

Valley agreed to pay 1.85 shares of its common stock for each of Rock's 920,577 shares, valuing the deal at about $45 million.

Gerald H. Lipkin, chairman and chief executive officer of Valley, said the deal would allow his $3.4 billion-asset company to use Rock Bank's status as a Small Business Administration preferred lender, which can streamline the loan-approval process.

Mr. Lipkin also said he intended to retain all officers and employees of Rock, which has $190 million of assets and five branches.

The briefs were compiled from staff and wire reports.

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