A Long Island banking company is bear-hugging a Queens thrift as the bank seeks to expand further into the Big Apple.
North Fork Bancorp. revealed last week that it has acquired 5% of the stock of Woodhaven-based Haven Bancorp in an apparent bid to pressure the thrift into discussing a merger.
North Fork president and chief executive John Adam Kanas has already prodded officials of $1.5 billion-asset Haven several times in the past few months to initiate discussions, but they have refused.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mattituck-based North Fork has indicated that it would now seek Federal Reserve Board approval to buy up to 9.9% of Haven's shares.
"We had gotten interested in them several months ago because they appeared to represent an opportunity for us to expand further into Queens," Mr. Kanas said in an interview.
"They are very likely to be a candidate in this consolidation wave whether it's with us or someone else. So we decided to be more aggressive."
Mr. Kanas said he has met twice with Haven president and chief executive Philip S. Messina, but was told that the thrift's board, after considering Mr. Kanas' request for talks, was not interested in meeting with officials of $4.1 billion-asset North Fork.
"The company is committed to enhancing shareholder value by continuing to focus on the implementation of the business plan that has led to the company's success to date and the continued development of that plan in the future," Mr. Messina said in a statement.
Haven, which like many banks and thrifts in the area was besieged with asset quality problems in the early 1990s, earned $8.5 million in 1995 - following two years of losses - and $2.9 million in the first quarter.
In their statement, Haven officials indicated that they will consider whether any other action is necessary to respond to North Fork's filing. Haven already has a shareholder rights plan, which would dilute the holdings of any potential acquirer buying more than 10% of the thrift's stock.
"Given shareholders' relative sensitivity to these types of things, we're surprised when we come across someone who is unwilling to have these types of discussions," Mr. Kanas said. "It flies in the face of reason to say on the one hand that you're out there for shareholder value but to say on the other that you don't want to talk about it."