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Bank of Ireland In Agreement To Acquire New Hampshire Banking Concern

April 19, 1988

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) _ First NH Banks Inc., the state’s largest bank holding company, has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by Bank of Ireland for about $370 million, Bank of Ireland said Monday.

The $30.50 a share buyout proposal, which is subject to approval by First NH Banks shareholders, comes as New Hampshire is about to relax its restrictions on interstate banking.

First NH stock rose $1.50 to $27 a share Monday in national over-the- counter trading.

Raymond Schwedhelm, a spokesman for First NH Banks, said the bank would retain its name and current management under the Bank of Ireland proposal.

Bank of Ireland has assets of about $15 billion while NH Banks has $2.5 billion in assets.

Banking analysts said they considered First NH a prime takeover target following a revised banking bill expected to be signed into law this month by Gov. John Sununu.

A foreign bank was expected to be the suitor because ″it doesn’t seem that any New England bank would be able to afford what First NH Banks would be asking,″ said Mark Lynch, an analyst with Bear Stearns & Co. in Boston.

Enactment of the banking bill is expected to spark an avalanche of negotiations for New Hampshire banks, which no out-of-state bank seriously pursued under the interstate banking law passed last year.

″The New Hampshire economy is strong; they have good tax laws and a low unemployment rate ... It’s a state that most bankers are envious about and want to get into,″ said James Moynihan, a bank analyst at Advest Inc. in Boston.

Under existing law, regional banks merging with or acquiring a New Hampshire bank must have all their deposits within New England. They are prohibited from acquiring banks outside New England once they buy New Hampshire institutions.

The pending revision means an acquiring bank need have only 51 percent of its deposits in New England on the day it applies for state approval of a purchase. The revised measure also loosens restrictions on doing business with banks outside of the region.

Under federal law, Bank of Ireland must designate New Hampshire as its home state for the United States.

The Bank of Ireland deal would take six to eight months to consummate and must be approved by shareholders of both banks and regulators in both countries, Schwedhelm said.

At their annual meeting Tuesday, First NH shareholders will learn more about the proposed deal, Schwedhelm said.

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