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Thursday Express: New Jersey banks in $94M deal; OTC Global founders sued

* In New Jersey, Kearny Financial is set to acquire MSB Financial in a deal valued at more than $94 million, based on Kearny Financial's closing stock price of $14.10 per share on Dec. 17. The merger is expected to close during the second calendar quarter of 2020.

* Hattiesburg, Miss.-based First Bancshares has agreed to acquire Moultrie, Ga.-based Southwest Georgia Financial. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020. Southwest Georgia Financial shareholders will receive 1.00 First Bancshares common share for each share of Southwest Georgia Financial common stock. This equates to $34.50 per share or about $88 million in the aggregate, based on 2,548,510 shares of Southwest Georgia Financial common stock outstanding and First Bancshares' closing price of $34.50 per share as of Dec. 17.

* In Pennsylvania, Covenant Financial has agreed to merge into Citizens & Northern in a deal valued at about $77 million, which is expected to close during the third quarter of 2020. As part of the agreement, Covenant Financial unit Covenant Bank will merge into Citizens & Northern subsidiary Citizens & Northern Bank.

* Clearfield, Pa.-based CNB Financial has agreed to acquire Akron, N.Y.-based Bank of Akron for $215 per share in cash and stock, or approximately $64.5 million in aggregate. According to financials as of Sept. 30, the combined company will have about $4 billion in assets.

* Meanwhile in Massachusetts, Cambridge Financial Group has agreed to acquire Melrose Bancorp in a transaction expected to close in the second quarter of 2020. Upon completion, Cambridge Financial Group will have approximately $4.7 billion in consolidated assets.

* OTC Global Holdings Partner John Klosek has sued co-founders Javier Loya and Joseph Kelly for allegedly charging the company as much as $300,000 a month for personal expenses while the firm was facing financial trouble, the Financial Times reports.

* Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, has announced his opposition to a bill designed to offer regulatory relief for banks looking to serve the cannabis industry. In a statement, Crapo expressed his concern regarding the SAFE Banking Act and said that he is firmly opposed to efforts to legalize marijuana on the federal level.

* Direct lending is slowly gaining on Wall Street's loan business, with an increasing number of hedge funds and buyout firms luring borrowers away from the public market and into private debt, Bloomberg News reports. Companies like Apollo Global Management and Blackstone Group are competing with big investment banks for billion-dollar deals as growing execution risks and higher premiums for investors in private debt, among other factors, are shaping the direction of global finance.

* The public finance head of Wells Fargo's corporate and investment bank, Charles Peck, will join Public Affairs Vice Chairman Bill Daley's team on an interim basis to assist with planning and "critical projects," Bloomberg News reports, citing a memo. Daley is also on the lookout for new heads of government relations and corporate communications, according to the report.

* MetLife has agreed to pay $10 million to settle charges that it violated federal securities laws related to "longstanding accounting errors" caused by its insufficient internal controls.

* The state of Florida has placed Windhaven Insurance into receivership after its regulator determined that the company's financial condition had deteriorated to insolvency.

The Daily Dose: Express Edition is updated as of 6:30 a.m. ET. Some external links may require a subscription. Links are current as of publication time, and we are not responsible if those links are unavailable later.