Pennsylvania's expansion-minded Susquehanna Bancshares would move into the Philadelphia suburbs for the first time with the latest deal to add to its growing tribe of banks.
The multibank holding company, which has stuck primarily to rural Pennsylvania until now, said last week that it would pay $15 million for $103 million-asset Founders' Bank in Bryn Mawr.
Robert S. Bolinger, Susquehanna's president and chief executive officer, said the deal "fills in a gap" between the Lititz, Pa.-based company's operations in south-central Pennsylvania and the two New Jersey bank holding companies it's slated to acquire this month.
The latter deals, for Marlton-based Atcorp and Mullica Hill-based Farmers Banc Corp., are to close Feb. 28.
Before the New Jersey deals, $3 billion-asset Susquehanna, which had already crossed the Mason-Dixon Line to buy several Maryland banks, hadn't gone east of its home base, which is near Lancaster, Pa.
Founders' approached Susquehanna about a possible deal after the latter announced the New Jersey deals last summer.
Robert F. Whalen, president of Founders' Bank, said he liked Susquehanna's style of maintaining its community banks as separate entities. Mr. Whalen said he had been looking for a way to sell the nine- year-old bank but maintain its autonomy.
Under the deal, Founders' would keep its name and staff. The bank has a branch in West Chester, Pa., and is opening another in Media next month.
"What we saw was the lack of liquidity for our stock," he said. "We also saw, going forward, the need to raise additional capital."
The Founders' purchase, for about two times its book value, didn't register much with analysts who follow Susquehanna.
"It bulks them up a little bit," said Marni Pont, a bank analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., New York. "I think it's probably more materially significant in terms of filling in their franchise."