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Metro activist investors increased ownership in 2014

Two activist investors in Metro Bancorp Inc. greatly increased their ownership stakes in the Swatara Township-based company over the last year, according to the company’s annual proxy report.

The document, filed late Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, revealed Basswood Capital Management LLC is now the company’s largest shareholder, and PL Capital LLC has moved from the fifth-largest shareholder to the third-largest.

Basswood increased its ownership stake from 8.6 percent to 9.91 percent by purchasing almost 187,000 Metro shares through the year, displacing Boston-based Wellington Management Co. LLP as the largest shareholder. Wellington went from a 9.69 percent ownership stake to 9.67 percent when it sold off a minimal amount of shares.

PL Capital was the biggest mover of the year. The Chicago-area activist investment group went from a 5.24 percent ownership stake to an 8.77 percent stake after buying more than 500,000 shares.

Both Basswood and PL Capital in the last year have made public pleas to Metro to sell the company or allow it to be acquired.

Metro responded with a new set of company practices — one of which included offering dividends for the first time — but shortly thereafter PL Capital Principal Richard Lashley announced he would nominate himself for the company’s board of directors, setting up a possible proxy battle.

But the two sides compromised earlier this month, and Lashley is now one of the company’s nominees for the board of directors. The company’s annual shareholder meeting, which will include the vote on the board, is scheduled for June 19.

Metro is the holding company for Metro Bank. It has about $3 billion in assets and trades on the NASDAQ exchange at METR.

Michael Sadowski

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