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Metro Bank hears merger plea from another investor

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A third major Metro Bancorp Inc. shareholder has called for the Swatara Township-based bank to find a strategic partner for a possible sale or merger.

Richard Lashley, principal at PL Capital LLC, wrote in a letter to Metro Chairman, President and CEO Gary Nalbandian that he believes the time is right for Metro to sell as the mergers and acquisitions market is hot.

“With regard to (mergers and acquisitions), there is clearly a rebound in both volume and pricing. Attractive franchises are getting attractive premiums,” he wrote. “The window will not always be open.”

PL Capital, which owns 8.4 percent of Metro’s outstanding common shares, is an activist shareholder firm with offices in the Chicago area and Morristown, N.J. Lashley wrote in the letter filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday that he spoke with Nalbandian recently to discuss PL Capital’s concerns with Metro.

Finding a partner would be difficult, Lashley wrote, because of the “lack of congruence” between Metro’s business model and the model of other banks. The bank is open extended hours and puts a high priority on branch growth.

During the conversation with Nalbandian, Lashley wrote that Nalbandian acknowledged there are “numerous potential suitors” for Metro.

PL Capital is the third investor this month to call for Metro to be sold. Basswood Capital Management LLC of New York City and Clover Partners LP of Dallas also wrote letters to Metro's board of directors imploring them to sell or merge.

Metro has 33 branch locations in Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties. It has $2.8 billion in assets and trades on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol METR.

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