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Sterling Targets Among New York Banks

Stocks in this article: STL BAC WFC JPM FCCY STBC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Following an exclusive interview with John Millman, during which the Sterling Bancorp (STL) President said his firm was considering acquisitions, TheStreet has developed a list of potential bank targets in the New York Tri-state area.

Millman also said his bank was taking advantage of the "constant change and flux" in the small business lending market following the bankruptcy of CIT Group and because lenders including Merrill Lynch - acquired by Bank of America (BAC) in January 2009 - Wachovia, which was acquired by Wells Fargo (WFC) in December 2008, and Washington Mutual, which failed and was purchased from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation by JPMorgan Chase (JPM) in September 2008, have essentially exited the market.

Sterling Bancorp's numbers reflect the bank's success in growing its business lending, as its loan portfolio grew 15% over the year ended June 30.

Click the image below for the list of ten commercial banks in the New York Tri-state with the highest asset concentrations in commercial and industrial loans:

Commercial and industrial loans (C&I) are loans to businesses that are not secured by real estate.

Two banks on the list - Bank Leumi USA and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Trust Co. would not be candidates for an acquisition by Sterling Bancorp, since they are subsidiaries of large foreign holding companies.

Small banks dominate the list, as half had total assets below $200 million as of June 30. All ten banks on the list had total risk-based capital ratios as of June 30 well above the 10% required for most banks to be considered well capitalized by regulators. The one exception was Heritage Community Bank of Randolph, NJ, which also had the highest nonperforming assets ratio among the group. The numbers would indicate that Heritage Community needs additional capital, and may be an acquisition candidate.

After Bank Leumi, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Trust Co. and Sterling itself, the largest bank on the list is 1st Constitution Bank of Cranbury, N.J. which is held by 1st Constitution Bancorp (FCCY).

1st Constitution could be an attractive acquisition candidate for a bank seeking to grow its C&I portfolio and the bank's Middlesex county location would also make sense for a New York based acquirer. 1st Constitution has remained profitable through the financial crisis, although the bank has a long way to go to get back to its excellent track record of increasing annual returns for the four years ending in 2007, when the return on average assets was 1.53%.

State Bank of Long Island is a relatively large player with $1.6 billion in total assets that didn't make the list, since the bank's ratio of C&I loans to total assets was 20% as of June 30, but that is still a significant concentration in business lending. The bank is the main subsidiary of State Bancorp (STBC), and after a net loss of $13.1 million (at the bank level) in 2009 mainly because its provision for loan loss reserves increased to $23 million from $3 million the previous year, State Bank of Long Island has been profitable for the first two quarters of 2010.

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Philip van Doorn.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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