Jay Sidhu

, forced out as head of

Sovereign Bancorp Inc.

by a shareholder rebellion not long before the banking industry blew up, has picked bad-loan-plagued

New Century Bank

, of Phoenixville, as the base for his next attempted corporate empire.

Sidhu took command yesterday as New Century chairman and chief executive officer after helping raise $13.6 million in a private stock sale. He replaces the bank's founder, Kenneth B. Mumma, who will stay on the board.

New Century, with five branches, $300 million in loans and investments, and $30 million in capital, is a gnat compared with $90 billion Sovereign, now part of Spain's Banco Santander S.A.

But Sidhu reminded me Sovereign started almost as small.

"We have big plans," Sidhu told me. "We will try to do organic growth and M&A growth," which means he'll grow what's there and buy some more. "My hope is, within a year or two, it will be at least a billion-dollar bank. At the right time, we will do an IPO and take it public."

He also has a secret idea to take this national: "We think there is a huge opportunity to have a unique selling proposition. I don't want to talk about that yet. But we will position ourselves against Wells Fargo and Bank of America and PNC. And Sovereign."

If Sidhu's hiring, we expect a lot of his former Sovereign employees may be available, as Santander is preparing to consolidate Sidhu's former Reading headquarters. Will he put the band back together? "No question about it," Sidhu said.

Going for the gold

Panicky Germans, worried about inflation and falling stock values, are buying gold from a vending machine, contends the U.K.'s Telegraph newspaper.

"Customers using a prototype 'Gold to go' machine at Frankfurt Airport on Tuesday had the choice of purchasing a 1g wafer of gold for [$42], a 10g bar for [$340], or gold coins," at a fat premium to recent market prices, the Telegraph said.

Builder TG-Gold-Super-Markt wants to put more machines at German train stations and airports. "Gold is a good thing to have in your pocket in uncertain times," founder Thomas Geissler told the paper.


Shares of

National Penn Bancshares Inc.

, of Boyertown, rose past $5 in trading yesterday after falling to $3.60, an 18-year low, the day before. The stock closed at $4.75 on the Nasdaq Stock Market, erasing the previous day's steep loss, on a second straight day of heavy volume.

The firm had blamed the price drop on "unusual trading activity" after it ended a discount stock sale that raised $73 million over the last few months.

But the drop also capped a two-month, 60 percent share decline caused by "deteriorating credit quality, a dividend cut, and concerns regarding capital adequacy," Jason O'Donnell, bank analyst at Boenning & Scattergood Inc., of West Conshohocken, told clients in a note early yesterday.

O'Donnell called the stock cheap at $3.60, implying National Penn's disease isn't fatal. Shares rose almost 32 percent as bargain-hunters moved in.

Market Street deal?


Lincoln National Corp.

was among the big life insurers that, like banks, needed more capital to cover its investments when values plunged last year.

Last week, the company said it had raised more than $2 billion from government and private investments and from the sale of its British operation, earning its battered stock an "outperform" rating from analyst Thomas Gallagher at Credit Suisse. This despite what Gallagher called the "risks of having the government as a key stakeholder."

Lincoln said nothing at the time about another asset it has considered selling, Delaware Investments, which manages more than $100 billion in bonds and other funds and employs about 1,000 at its Market Street offices.

Investment-trade journals and blogs have speculated for the last two months on $200-billion-asset Aberdeen Asset Management P.L.C. as a likely buyer. The British firm has more than $200 billion in investments.

It would be a Market Street deal: Delaware is based at Commerce Plaza in the 2000 block, while Aberdeen's U.S. headquarters is in the Mellon Bank Center three blocks east. Aberdeen has 200 local employees.

Representatives for both firms declined to comment.

Contact staff writer Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194 or JoeD@phillynews.com.