The Resolution Trust Corp. rejected Meridian Bancorp's agreement to acquire 21 branches of a New Jersey thrift, Meridian announced Tuesday.

Meridian, which began expanding into New Jersey last year from its base in Reading, Pa., had entered into a purchase-and-assumption agreement with Security Federal Savings Bank in July 1992.

The Pennsylvania banking company offered to acquire $550 million in deposits and certain performing assets of 21 of the thrift's 28 branches in central and south New Jersey.

Meridian offered to pay 2.36 times Security's deposits, said Samuel McCullough, chairman and chief executive officer.

The Office of Thrift Supervision placed the thrift under RTC conservatorship last December.

Mr. McCullough said in an interview this fall that the RTC| was leaning toward selling the thrift as a whole but noted that Meridian only wanted 21 branches. The bank company did not withdraw its offer and tried to negotiate with the RTC to make the acquisition.

Exclusive Bidding Rejected

An RTC spokeswoman in Washington said the agency rejected Meridian's agreement because it stipulated that Security Federal not entertain bids from other banking companies.

A Meridian spokesman said the rejection "came as no surprise," adding that, if the RTC decides to sell the thrift, Meridian may bid for certain branches and deposits.

Meridian's New Jersey affiliate has eight branches in southern Ner Jersey and about $190 million in assets. The holding company has $12 billion in assets.

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