N.Y. investment firm buys stake in Bancorp


A New York investment firm has purchased a 5 percent stake in Baltimore Bancorp Inc., which announced in late January that several potential buyers are examining its books.

Leon Cooperman, financier and president of Omega Advisors Inc., a private New York hedge fund, purchased 838,100 shares between Jan. 28 and Feb. 17 for $15.69 to $17.19 a share, according to a Schedule 13D filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday.

Baltimore Bancorp, parent of the Bank of Baltimore, has 16.7 million shares outstanding. Based in Baltimore, it has 42 branches and $2.3 billion in assets.

Baltimore Bancorp announced Jan. 13 that it is engaged in preliminary merger discussions with several major bank holding companies. On Jan. 26, the bank announced its books and records are being examined as part of those discussions.

The company yesterday declined to comment on Mr. Cooperman's purchase, except to note that his SEC filing indicated it was for investment purposes only.

Possible buyers that have emerged in speculation in recent months are First Union Corp. of Charlotte, N.C., and Baltimore-based First Maryland Bancorp, parent of First National Bank of Maryland.

First Maryland, which last year sold $150 million in preferred stock, offered $17 a share for Baltimore Bancorp in 1990.

Alex Hart, banking analyst with Ferris, Baker Watts Inc., predicted a $20 to $21 per share bid for Baltimore Bancorp.

At $20 a share, a takeover could net Mr. Cooperman a return of more than 21 percent on his initial investment.

Baltimore Bancorp's stock closed at $16.25 a share yesterday, up 37.5 cents. For 1993, the company's net income fell to $10.3 million, or 66 cents a share, from $14.5 million, or $1.13 a share, in the previous year, although its fourth-quarter earnings were nearly 300 percent higher than a year earlier.

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