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First Niagara, now Connecticut

   The big business news made it's way to P.1 today -- too much for Business Today to contain.

- First Niagara poised to join top 25 of U.S. banks, thrifts - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News
   First Niagara Financial Group shows no sign of losing its appetite for acquisitions.
   The Buffalo-based banking company said Thursday it had agreed to acquire Connecticut-based Newhaven NewAlliance Bancshares in a deal valued at $1.5 billion. The combination is expected to propel First Niagara to No. 25 among publicly traded U.S.-based banks and thrifts, and create more jobs in Western New York.
   First Niagara has made a series of acquisitions in the past decade, while bolstering its local employment and relocating its headquarters to Buffalo's Larkin at Exchange Building.
   The latest deal raises the expansion-minded company's profile as it extends its reach into New England. ... Bloomberg News said the deal was the biggest merger of U.S. lenders since October 2008. ...
   NewAlliance's 88 branches will be rebranded as First Niagara. And NewAlliance's headquarters in New Haven, Conn., is scheduled to become First Niagara's New England Regional Market Center.

   In New Haven, though, the reaction is "Not so fast, there, pilgrim."
New Alliance falls to Niagara - Angela Carter/The New Haven Register
   NewAlliance Bancshares Inc. met with a backlash Thursday when it announced plans to sell NewAlliance Bank to First Niagara Financial Group Inc., based in Buffalo, N.Y.
   “Right now, what I plan to do is ask a lot of questions about how this benefits job creation and how this benefits the economy of New Haven and Connecticut,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. “I expect this new bank will get purchased in five years by another bank.”
   State Attorney Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, said the merger raises significant questions and concerns about “potentially far-reaching” ramifications on bank customers, employees, the New Haven community and the economy.”
   “My office will work cooperatively with other local and state authorities to look into any concerns, and the potential legal implications of this acquisition,” he said.
   [Gotta love that headline.]
City decries NewAlliance 'betrayal' - Paul Bass/The New Haven Independent
   DeStefano Thursday afternoon wouldn’t say yet whether he planned to try to block the planned merger when it comes before federal regulators. He and local labor leaders staged a fight six years ago against a previous merger that created NewAlliance Bank, and won tens of millions of dollars in concessions in the process.

  Other takes:
- First Niagara To Acquire NewAlliance For $1.5B  - Dow Jones Newswires/The Wall Street Journal
   Serial acquirer First Niagara Financial Group Inc. (FNFG) said it would buy NewAlliance Bancshares Inc. (NAL) for some $1.5 billion, the first in what many bankers believe will be an eventual wave of deals in the banking industry.
   The deal marks the first sizable merger of two healthy banks since the financial crisis, rather than an acquisition of a troubled institution by a strong bank. In comments after the deal's announcement, the two banks' chief executives said they wanted the merger to be understood as a pre-emptive strike in a banking environment that is changing in the aftermath of the Dodd-Frank financial services overhaul bill.
   ["Serial acquirer"? Is that good?]
First Niagara to Acquire Rival Bank for $1.5 Billion - Eric Dash/The New York Times
  The First Niagara Financial Group said Thursday that it had agreed to buy NewAlliance Bancshares for $1.5 billion in cash and stock, catapulting First Niagara into the ranks of the nation’s 25 largest banks and providing tentative hope that a long-expected wave of industry consolidation might follow.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News


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