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Citizens stock rises amid merger rumors


Citizens Bancorp's stock jumped by more than $2 a share yesterday and closed at $34 on rumors that the company is in merger talks with Wachovia Corp.

But Jeffrey R. Springer, president of the Laurel-based banking company, said the bank is not in negotiations with Wachovia or any other institution.

"It seems to happen every few months on Fridays. We get a lot of play," Mr. Springer said.

"There is usually a different name each time. We are one of the larger remaining franchises, that is why you see the speculation."

A spokesman for Wachovia, a $42.9 billion-asset banking concern with headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Atlanta, said it's company policy not to comment on rumors.

The rumors sent Citizens stock flying to a record 52-week high of $34.25 a share during the day, up $2.125.

It settled at $34.

Citizens is one of the few remaining large independent banks in the Baltimore-Washington area, which makes it an attractive target for banks that want to build their presence here.

"It is a strong franchise with good name recognition," said Alex C. Hart, an analyst with Ferris, Baker Watts Inc. in Baltimore.

Citizens operates 100 offices in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and has $3.8 billion in assets and $2.9 billion in deposits.

It is also profitable, earning $17.4 million for the first six months of the year, up 16 percent from a year ago.

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