September 23, 2015 / 4:38 PM / 3 years ago

BUZZ-First Niagara Financial Co: Explores possible sale

** Shares of First Niagara up 12.8 pct at $10.11 as regional bank explores a sale

** Buffalo-based lender hires JP Morgan to advise on possible moves, according to Bloomberg, citing people who asked to remain anonymous because the talks are private

** Article notes DealReporter said earlier that bank had contacted possible buyers, including New York Community Bancorp , Toronto-Dominion and Huntington Bancshares

** A First Niagara spokesman declined comment, said bank does not “comment on rumors”; JP Morgan representative also declined comment - Bloomberg

** FNFG has a market cap of $3.2 bln based on 354.8 mln shares outstanding, according to Thomson Reuters data

** Evercore ISI raises its PT to $9 from $8 to reflect recent stock outperformance, maintains “Hold” rating

** Speculation of a sale arose after March 2013 ouster of bank’s former CEO and amid backdrop of persistent sub-par profitability and management missteps, analysts write in note

** Stock jumped as much as 16.6 pct, touched 20-month high of $10.45 in early trading; nearly 14 mln shares have exchanged hands by midday, 6x stock’s 25-day moving average

** Up to Tuesday’s close, shares had gained 6.3 pct this year (RM:

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