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Northwest to buy 18 First Niagara branches

Northwest Bancshares announced it will buy the 18 First Niagara Financial Group branches that KeyCorp will divest under an agreement with the Justice Department.

“We are excited to announce this opportunity to significantly increase Northwest’s presence in a geographic region that we know well and find extremely attractive,” said William J. Wagner, Northwest’s chairman, president and CEO, in a statement. “The offices we are purchasing are excellent facilities in exceptional locations, with deposit balances averaging $96 million per branch. All 18 offices will remain open and the staffs of these offices will be offered employment with Northwest so that they can continue to serve their customers. We believe these new customers will embrace Northwest’s products, services and passion for customer satisfaction, and we look forward to serving them. This increased presence also provides an opportunity for Northwest to expand its commitment to Western New York and to seek additional opportunities to add jobs, promote economic development and remain a good corporate citizen.”

Northwest, based in Warren, Pa., has 176 full-service offices and five-drive up facilities operating under the Northwest Bank name in New York state, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland.

Northwest ranked No. 7 in deposit market share in the Buffalo Niagara region, with about 0.63 percent, according to the most recent data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Northwest projects it will move into the No. 4 spot as a result of the branch acquisitions.

Northwest already has eight branches in the region, and is adding a brand-new location in Orchard Park – an uncommon step at a time when many banks are trimming their branch networks, as more transactions go online.

In fact, Northwest announced in January it was closing 24 branches by midyear, and converting two full-service branches to drive-up only service. But none of the affected locations was in the Buffalo Niagara region.

Northwest has already demonstrated its ambition to grow. In August, Northwest completed a $179 million acquisition of LNB Bancorp, which serves Northeast Ohio.