Named to the List of Top Performing Small-Cap Banks and Thrifts in the U.S. by Sandler O'Neill and is Ranked Among the Top Performing Banks Out of All Publicly Traded Banks and Thrifts in the State of New Jersey. Receives Bauer Financial Superior Five-Star Rating for the 8 th Consecutive Quarter UNION, N.J., Sept. 11, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Center Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq:CNBC) (the "Corporation", or "Center"), parent company of Union Center National Bank ("UCNB" or "the Bank"), announced today that it has been recognized by Sandler O'Neill + Partners L.P., a New York investment banking firm, as one of twenty five "2012 Sm-All Stars" and is recognized as a top performing publicly traded Bank in the nation. Sandler O'Neill evaluated all 461 publicly traded banks with a market capitalization of less than $2 billion and identified the 25 top performing small-cap banks and thrifts in the nation. In announcing the Sm-All Stars, Sandler O'Neill's Director of Research Mark Fitzgibbon and Associate Director Casey Orr said, "In all, our screening methodology eliminated 95% of the institutions being evaluated. The performance metrics of the remaining 25 institutions are exceptional." Companies were evaluated based on absolute performance in eight financial variables: growth in EPS, loans and deposits, return on average equity, nonperforming assets to loans plus OREO ratio, net charge-off ratio, reserves to nonperforming assets ratio and Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio. To earn "Sm-All Star" status, the banks and thrifts needed to be at or above the peer median for the first seven metrics surveyed, plus be considered "Well Capitalized" per the Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio. "Center Bancorp has always focused on performance and strategic but conservative growth in addition to serving the needs of our local communities. We are honored to be recognized for our strength, stability and consistent performance," said Anthony C. Weagley, President and Chief Executive Officer. "It is a testament of our Bank's hallmark personalized service, commitment to excellence, and results," added Mr. Weagley.