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Haven Bancorp acquiring Summit lender in $27 million deal

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Haven Bancorp, of Hoboken, a 75-year-old institution focused on residential lending, announced Wednesday it will acquire Summit’s Hilltop Community Bancorp, founded 13 years ago as a commercial lender, for $9.42 per share in cash, or about $26.9 million.

Haven is the parent of Haven Savings Bank, while Hilltop is the parent of Hilltop Community Bank.

John H. Wessling, chief executive of Haven, said Haven has a large one- to four-family residential loan portfolio, which “has been our primary business over the years.”

He said Haven “is doing an adequate amount of commercial loans” and the acquisition of Hilltop “will help us in developing that portfolio. We think it’s a perfect fit on the lending side.”

By acquiring Hilltop, “We are getting commercial lending expertise,” Wessling said.  He said in New Jersey “There’s a lot of competition for commercial loans, and there’s a huge demand for commercial loans.” And while the media has reported that “the overall feeling is that banks aren’t lending, that is not the truth in New Jersey: We are trying to lend as much as we can.”

He said Hilltop CEO Mortimer O’Shea is a veteran banker “who knows the commercial lending business, and he can help us as a board member, and we are looking forward to that.”

He said Haven has 80 employees and Hilltop 28, though and no decisions have been made on whether layoffs will result from the merger.

The acquisition, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, will increase Haven’s assets by more than $160 million to about $840 million. Wessling said the deal will bring Haven into “three very strong local markets” — Summit, Berkeley Heights and Madison.

Haven Savings Bank, a state-chartered savings bank founded in 1938, said its primary business is residential lending. It has a main office in Hoboken and branches in Secaucus, Westwood, Montclair, Livingston and Westfield.

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