November 8, 2021
TOMS RIVER - OceanFirst Financial Corp. said it planned to buy Salisbury, Maryland-based Partners Bancorp for $186 million in cash and stock in a deal that would add another piece in the company's East Coast expansion.
OceanFirst said Partners' subsidiaries, The Bank of Delmarva and Virginia Partners Bank, would merge into OceanFirst Bank. The deal is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022.
"We believe the foundation and core values of OceanFirst are consistent with the teams at the Partners Bancorp banks and together we can achieve enhanced value for our stockholders while delivering an extraordinary experience for our customers,” said Christopher Maher, OceanFirst's chairman and chief executive officer.
OceanFirst is the Shore's biggest locally based bank with assets of $11.8 billion.
The acquisition marks the latest step in what has been a dizzying transformation in recent years. Once content to operate in Ocean and Monmouth counties, OceanFirst has completed seven acquisitions since 2013, expanding its reach from Boston to Washington, D.C.
And it is running headlong into the digital world, closing 20 of its 58 branches and investing heavily in technology such as video teller machines.
OceanFirst's stock fell by about 2% on Thursday, when the acquisition of Partners was announced, but it rebounded Friday.
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Analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said the deal made strategic and financial sense because it gives OceanFirst more commercial customers and a chance to save money through consolidation. But some investors had preferred the bank would grow more organically.
"Management does have a lot of deal experience which should help navigate this situation," they wrote in a report.
Partners Bancorp has $1.5 billion in assets and 220 employees. It owns four banks with a total of 19 branches: The Bank of Delmarva; Liberty Bell Bank; Virginia Partners; and Maryland Partners.
The acquisition would help OceanFirst make inroads to Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and metropolitan Washington, D.C., along with Partners' commercial lenders, who already have strong connections in the business community, Maher said.
"As part of a larger and more diverse institution, our employees will have additional opportunities to grow and develop, our customers will have greater access to expanded banking services, and our shareholders should benefit from our increased profitability, liquidity, and increased market capitalization,” said John W. Breda, Partners' president and chief operating officer.
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