WYOMISSING, Pa. - Sovereign Bancorp said it had completed its acquisition of $909.3 million in deposits from Berkeley Federal Bank and Trust.

The deal significantly increases Sovereign's presence in Essex, Union, Morris, Somerset, Middlesex, Ocean, and Atlantic counties in New Jersey and gives it entry into the growing market of New Castle County in northern Delaware, Sovereign said.

Berkeley Federal had 18 community banking offices in New Jersey and five in Delaware.

In exchange for assuming the deposits of the Berkeley offices, Sovereign acquired principally cash and fixed assets net of a deposit premium of about $66.6 million, or 7.3%. The transaction is expected to be accretive to Sovereign's earnings per share within the first year.

The Berkeley systems conversion is tentatively scheduled for February.

With the addition of the 23 Berkeley community banking offices and other pending acquisitions, Sovereign's assets are expected to be approximately $6.5 billion, with 137 branches throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and northern Delaware.

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