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Berkshire Hills to Acquire First Choice Bank

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Hills Bancorp Inc. and First Choice Bank announced Wednesday that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which First Choice Bank will merge into Berkshire Bank and its subsidiary, First Choice Loan Services Inc., will become a subsidiary of Berkshire Bank in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $111.7 million.

Berkshire’s total assets will increase to $8.9 billion including the $1.1 billion in acquired First Choice assets.  This market-expanding merger provides entry into attractive markets with strong demographics, and includes six branches near Princeton, N.J., and two in the greater Philadelphia, Pa. area. First Choice reported $436 million in net loans (excluding loans held for sale) and $906 million in deposits as of March 31, 2016.

First Choice Bank is the second largest community bank by deposit market share in Mercer County, New Jersey, an area with per capita income well above national and regional averages. First Choice Loan Services is a leading residential retail and consumer direct mortgage originator serving borrowers across the United States. Total mortgage production in 2015 was $2.5 billion.

Berkshire will have a pro forma market cap of approximately $905 million and 101 branches, serving customers and communities across the Northeast.

“We’re pleased to welcome First Choice customers and employees to America’s Most Exciting Bank®,” said Michael P. Daly, Chief Executive Officer of Berkshire. “This partnership builds on Berkshire’s commitment to create a strong regional platform for serving our customers, while diversifying our revenue streams, improving profitability and increasing shareholder value.  The First Choice franchise builds on markets where we presently manage commercial relationships, and adds a well-positioned deposit base, a best in class home lending operation and enthusiastic new teams that complement our current culture. After integration, the transaction is expected to be accretive to Berkshire’s earnings per share, return on equity and return on assets, liquidity and capital. We have a strong track record of execution and our collective teams are positioned to complete this integration flawlessly.”

Martin Tuchman, First Choice’s Chairman of the Board, commented, “We’re pleased to announce this combination with Berkshire and believe our customers, community and employees will benefit greatly from this transaction. We believe Berkshire fits both the culture of our bank and our expanding mortgage operation. Their product suite and commitment to service will enable the combined company to better compete in this growing marketplace. With Berkshire’s attractive stock, I’m pleased to be a shareholder going forward, and our bank employees and mortgage lending group look forward to joining the Berkshire team.”

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