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PhillyDeals: Bryn Mawr Bank to pay $109M for Continental

Spreading through Philadelphia's wealthiest suburbs, Bryn Mawr Bank Corp. says it will pay stock worth $109 million to buy Continental Bank Holdings Inc., of Plymouth Meeting.

Spreading through Philadelphia's wealthiest suburbs, Bryn Mawr Bank Corp. says it will pay stock worth $109 million to buy Continental Bank Holdings Inc., of Plymouth Meeting.

The deal, if regulators approve, will join 26 Bryn Mawr Trust Co. branches, mostly on the Main Line and in Delaware County, to Continental's 10 branches, mostly in central Montgomery County.

Bryn Mawr expects to cut 35 percent of Continental's expenses: It won't need two headquarters or IT systems. It plans to pay 0.45 Bryn Mawr shares for each Continental share, which works out to a little more than $12 per share, a modest profit on the $8, after dividends, that Continental's founders invested nine years ago.

Continental has been making a lot more real estate and small-business loans since it raised $16.5 million from investors Castle Creek Capital Partners and Greenhill Partners, at $7 a share in 2012.

So why is it time to sell? "I have a feeling interest rates are going to stay low for a long time," said W. Kirk Wycoff, Continental's founder and major shareholder, and a partner with Ira Lubert and James Lynch in the Patriot Capital bank-investment fund.

When rates are low, banks have trouble making a profit from the spread between what they pay depositors and what they charge for loans. But Bryn Mawr is also in the investment business, which rakes in fees even when lending isn't very profitable. The bank looks forward to selling Bryn Mawr investments in Continental's markets, Bryn Mawr CEO Ted Peters told investors in a conference call.

Why pick Bryn Mawr over other buyers?

"We could have gone with a much larger organization - and caused a lot of employee turnover and a lot of customer turnover," Wycoff said. "But the board liked this deal because Bryn Mawr is a very stable bank that puts up good numbers every year. The Wycoff family will have $9 or $10 million in Bryn Mawr stock when this is done. We'll watch it closely."

How long until some bigger bank makes a fat offer for Bryn Mawr?

"Our mantra has been to remain independent and show good growth" and higher share prices, Peters said.

Peters is planning to retire from day-to-day management by the time the Continental deal is done, leaving Bryn Mawr president Francis Leto in charge. Peters plans to devote more of his time to his other business: investments in small banks around the country. Just as Wycoff has.

Target turnaround?

The surprise announcement that Gregg Steinhafel is out as CEO of the Target discount store chain - a move that a lot of people assumed was due to the recent Target data breach, in which customers' private information was exposed to crooks - gives Target a change to fix "other, bigger strategic issues," writes David Strasser, analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott, in a report to clients Monday.

Turns out that data encryption isn't the only place where the chain's technology is below standard: As more of its shoppers turn to online retailers, Target's own online sales business is far behind, according to Strasser.

Target also needs to rapidly fix issues with its Canadian stores, its PFresh grocery sales system on the West coast, and its REDcard credit network, Strasser added.

In short, Strasser said: "Target needs a turnaround specialist, someone who could re-energize a workforce that has been demoralized by bad news, and make tough and quick decisions regarding a variety of strategies that need review."