Sovereign Bancorp said Friday that it has agreed to acquire ML Bancorp, Villanova, Pa., for $345 million-about two times book value.

Sovereign would exchange 1.67 shares of its stock for each share of ML, which has $2.2 billion of assets and is the parent of Main Line Bank. Main Line has 29 branches in the Philadelphia area.

"We were not for sale, but this was a unique opportunity," said Dennis S. Marlo, president and chief executive officer of ML. After the deal, expected to close early next year, Mr. Marlo would be president of Sovereign's Philadelphia region and a director.

Sovereign, a thrift company, had assets of $9.8 billion at midyear.

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