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First Niagara applications OK'd

Federal bank regulators have approved First Niagara Financial Group's applications to acquire Harleysville National Corp. in suburban Philadelphia and to convert itself and its savings bank subsidiary into a bank holding company and commercial bank, respectively.

The Buffalo-based company said Friday that the Federal Reserve Board had OK'd its plan to register First Niagara Financial Group as a bank holding company and to acquire Harleysville.

Separately, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a Treasury Department agency, approved its application to convert First Niagara Bank from a savings bank to a national commercial bank.

Both entities had previously been regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision, but First Niagara applied to convert them late last year to give it more flexibility for future growth and align its current business model and mix with its structure.

First Niagara can now complete its purchase of Harleysville and its 83 branches in southeastern Pennsylvania as of April 9. The offices will reopen as First Niagara offices April 12.

Both Harleysville National Bank and its parent company will be merged into First Niagara, which will also assume Harleysville's 17.5 percent stake in Berkshire Bancorp of Wyomissing, Pa. First Niagara Commercial Bank, another subsidiary that was set up to take municipal deposits, will also now be folded into First Niagara Bank.

"These regulatory approvals are an important next step in the evolution of First Niagara, better aligning our commercial bank business model with our regulatory oversight," CEO John R. Koelmel said. "They also give us greater flexibility in executing both our in-market and acquisition-growth strategies."

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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