Lakeland Bank acquiring Highlands in $57M merger deal

Lakeland Bancorp Inc., parent of Lakeland Bank, is acquiring Highlands Bancorp Inc. and its Highlands State Bank in a merger deal worth about $56.7 million, the banks announced.

Under a definitive agreement, Vernon-based Highlands would merge with and into Oak Ridge-based Lakeland, with Highlands shareholders receiving 1.015 shares of Lakeland common stock for each share of Highlands common stock they own.

“We are delighted to be combining with Highlands and expanding Lakeland’s presence in Sussex, Passaic and Morris Counties,” Thomas J. Shara, Lakeland’s CEO and president, said in a prepared statement. “Both banks share a focus on community banking and providing the highest level of service to our customers. We look forward to working with the Highlands team in delivering to all of our customers and shareholders the benefits that we expect from this transaction.”

The deal, which was announced Thursday, would value Highlands at $19.79 per share, a 20 percent premium to its closing price Wednesday.

“We are very excited to be partnering with such a strong, well-managed organization as Lakeland,” Steven C. Ackman, Highlands’ CEO and president, said in a statement. “Together, our franchises create a great presence in one of the most attractive banking markets in the country.”

Lakeland operates 52 branches in eight New Jersey counties, with one branch in New York state, as well as six regional commercial lending centers in New Jersey and one in New York. It also has a commercial loan production office in Central Jersey.

Highlands has four branches in northern New Jersey.

Both boards have approved the merger, which is subject to customary approvals and conditions. The deal is expected to close early in 2019.

Sandler O’Neill + Partners L.P. is Lakeland’s financial adviser, while Lowenstein Sandler LLP is its legal adviser. FIG Partners L.P. is Highlands’ financial adviser and Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf LLP is its legal adviser.