Trust Company of New Jersey has increased its ownership stake in local rival United National Bancorp and declared its intention to buy $2 billion-asset United itself or push for a sale. The Jersey City company, which has assets of $3.8 billion, said in a July 25 Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it had acquired nearly 256,000 of United National¡¦s shares since February to give it 1.37 million shares in the Bridgewater company, or a 9.1% stake.
Though it said it ¡§has not developed specific plans or proposals,¡¨ it gave a laundry list of possible moves. They included buying still more shares of United National, selling it or acquiring it itself, changing its management and control, and even working out a merger in which United National ¡§may be the survivor.¡¨
In a phone interview, Siggi B. Wilzig, the chairman and chief executive officer of Trust Company of New Jersey, said he could not comment beyond what was stated in the SEC document.
¡§At this moment there is nothing to add,¡¨ but ¡§that may change,¡¨ he said.
United chairman, president, and CEO Thomas Gregor would not discuss the filing and has not publicly responded to Trust Company¡¦s stated intentions.
Analysts say it is hard to tell what will happen but agree that this may at the very least be a distraction for United National. Casey Alexander, an analyst at Gilford Securities in New York who follows Trust Company, said owning a large chunk of United National puts Trust Company in a position to initiate a transaction without necessarily being the buyer. United ¡§can¡¦t just thumb their nose at a 10% shareholder¡¨ and remain silent on the issue.
¡§I think Trust Company of New Jersey believes the entire state of New Jersey is going to be consolidated and that there is no reason that they shouldn¡¦t either participate or profit from that consolidation trend,¡¨ Mr. Alexander continued. ¡§United National Bank of New Jersey is absolutely an acquisition target, as is Trust Company of New Jersey.¡¨
Trading in United National¡¦s stock has been heavy since Trust Company¡¦s July 25 SEC filing. It jumped 11%, to $24.50, the day after the filing became public and was trading at $23.65 midday Tuesday.
Roberta Probber, an analyst at Ryan, Beck & Co. LLC in Livingston, N.J., said deals in New Jersey and New York in the last year and a half have been priced at 2.3 times book and about 18 times core earnings.
Ms. Probber said she would expect United National to fetch a per-share price ¡§in the mid-to-high 20s.¡¨ If a buyer were to pay $25 a share, the deal would be worth about $377 million.