Shares of Alliance Bancorp have been gaining momentum on speculation that the Chicago-area banking company may be seeking a buyer.
Analysts are linking $1.9 billion-asset Alliance, of Hinsdale, Ill., to $4 billion-asset MAF Bancorp, which is based in nearby Clarendon Hills, Ill.
Alliance shares have soared more than 30% since the end of March, closing at $23.75 on Monday. The shares were trading at $23.9375 as of midday Tuesday.
Stephen G. Skiba, a senior analyst with ABN Amro in Chicago, said that Alliance's management has let it be known that it is interested in selling if the price is right.
And Monday's announcement that Charter One Financial Inc. in Cleveland would buy Chicago's St. Paul Bancorp might be the push needed to bring Alliance and MAF together, he said.
"There is pressure mounting on both of these companies to get larger," Mr. Skiba said. "The only question now is the exchange ratio."
Daniel E. Cardenas, an analyst with Howe Barnes Investments in Chicago, said a deal could make sense for MAF. "It would solidify their presence in Chicago as the largest independent thrift," he said.
Kenne P. Bristol, chief executive officer at Alliance, would not comment when asked if his company was involved in negotiations with MAF. "You know I can't answer that," he said.
Allen Koranda, chief executive officer of MAF, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Elsewhere, shares of Pottstown, Pa.-based Patriot Bank Corp. are climbing again. On April 14, shares jumped 90% in midday trading after the $1.1 billion-asset company announced it was introducing Internet banking. The shares lost most of what they had gained later that day.
Now, Patriot's shares are on the move again, gaining 14% last week. Cassandra Toroian, a research analyst at Ryan, Beck & Co. in Livingston, N.J., said she expects this more gradual rise to last longer.
"They are moving from a traditional thrift to a commercial balance sheet, and they have the experience in management to do it right," she said.
Patriot's shares were down 31.25 cents at midday Tuesday, trading at $10.25.