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WEST PALM BEACH, FL-With its acquisition of locally based Palm Beach County Bank, Cherry Hill, NJ-based Commerce Bancorp Inc. lays the foundation for a 150-unit expansion throughout Southeast Florida. Commerce has agreed to buy Palm Beach County Bank for approximately $100 million, payable in Commerce Bancorp stock. The closing is expected to take place in the fourth quarter of this year.

The existing seven Palm Beach County Bank offices will be converted to Commerce Bank outlets effective Jan. 1, 2006. Within five years, Commerce plans to construct a minimum of 150 new branches in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Martin counties.

The expansion will begin with construction of between 10 and 15 new units in 2006 and increase to between 20 and 25 additional new units a year over the following four years. Commerce currently has more than 10 sites under development in Palm Beach and Broward counties, the company reports.

The Palm Beach County Bank management team, including Calvin Cearley, CEO, and William Martin, president, will remain along with all current bank employees. Commerce says it plans to hire an additional 500 employees over the next 18 months. In addition to the new branches, it plans to create a private banking group and create or acquire an insurance brokerage agency in this region.

Vernon W. Hill, founder and chairman of Commerce, said in a conference call, “We are excited about the ability to rapidly expand the unique Commerce Bank model throughout Florida beginning with Southeast Florida. Florida is a natural extension of our New York and Philadelphia markets where the Commerce brand already is widely recognized and very successful.”

Commerce has more than 330 stores in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. Among them are 181 throughout the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut areas of metropolitan New York where it is adding approximately 30 units a year; 150 in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey areas of metropolitan Philadelphia; and metropolitan Washington/Baltimore, where is has opened two of a planned 200 units.

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