Five months ago it seemed unlikely that New Century Bancorp would make it to its first birthday.

State and federal regulators had deemed the $56.5 million-asset company, which is based in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Mich., "critically undercapitalized." They recommended that it consider four possible restructuring scenarios.

At the top of the list, according to an order the Federal Reserve issued in February for prompt and corrective action, was to "enter into and close a contract to be acquired by a depository institution holding company."

But the company did make it to its one-year anniversary on July 1, and its president vows it will be around for years to come.

New Century lost a total of $5.1 million in 1999 and the first quarter of 2000. Bruce Carleton, the company's president, traced its problems to troubles with its equipment-leasing subsidiary, which has been dissolved.

Its first order of business was to recapitalize. Minority investor Vincent DiLorenzo injected an unspecified amount of cash and in the process gained a majority stake. Mr. DiLorenzo, a Detroit developer, has since been appointed chairman, replacing founder Steve Kirkpatrick,.

Mr. Carleton also slashed New Century's work force from 45, including leasing employees, to 18. Now he predicts that the company will post a profit for the second quarter.

"We are operating now as a traditional community bank," Mr. Carleton said.

He said New Century is looking to open new branches in its suburban Detroit market. And if suitors come calling, what will Mr. Carleton tell them?

"We plan to stay independent," he said.

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