Basswood Capital Loaded Up On Astoria Financial Corp (AF) Stock Ahead Of Canceled Merger

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Matthew Lindenbaum‘s Basswood Capital has stepped up its interest in Astoria Financial Corp (NYSE:AF) according to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The fund has increased its holding to 5.95 million shares, or 5.87% of the company’s outstanding stock, from just 1.71 million shares reported as of the end of the third quarter.

The filing also included a letter sent by Mr. Lindenbaum to Astoria Financial Corp (NYSE:AF)’s Board of Directors. In the letter, Basswood Capital’s manager urges Astoria to terminate its merger agreement with New York Community Bancorp, Inc. (NYSE:NYCB) as soon as the terms of the agreement permit, citing major changes in the industry environment. The letter was sent on December 9 and the companies called off their merger on December 21, without commenting on the reason behind this decision. Astoria shares rallied 4.8% following the announcement, but have suffered a small correction after that.

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So far this year, Astoria Financial Corp (NYSE:AF) has managed to advance by 14% through Friday’s closing price of $18.55 per share. The company has a market cap of $1.88 billion and pays an annual dividend of $0.16 per share, providing investors with a 0.86% yield. Among the funds followed by Insider Monkey, Jim Simons‘ Renaissance Technologies held the second largest stake in Astoria Financial at the end of the third quarter, after Basswood. According to its 13F filing, the fund reduced its position by 9% to 1.49 million shares valued at $21.8 million. Neil Chriss‘ Hutchin Hill Capital, on the other hand, boosted its stake by 56% over the quarter to 1.29 million shares worth $18.9 million at the end of September.

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You can access the original SEC filing by clicking here.

Ownership Summary Table

Name Sole Voting Power Shared Voting Power Sole Dispositive Power Shared Dispositive Power Aggregate Amount Owned Power Percent of Class
Basswood Capital Management 0 5,876,719 0 5,876,719 5,876,719 5.80%
Basswood Partners 0 2,002,753 0 2,002,753 2,002,753 1.98%
Basswood Enhanced Long Short GP 0 2,494,921 0 2,494,921 2,494,921 2.46%
Basswood Financial Fund 0 381,173 0 381,173 381,173 0.38%
Basswood Financial Fund, Inc 0 95,561 0 95,561 95,561 0.09%
Basswood Financial Long Only Fund 0 53,655 0 53,655 53,655 0.05%
Basswood Enhanced Long Short Fund 0 2,494,921 0 2,494,921 2,494,921 2.46%
Basswood Opportunities Partners 0 1,567,925 0 1,567,925 1,567,925 1.55%
Basswood Opportunity Fund, Inc 0 400,431 0 400,431 400,431 0.40%
Boulevard Direct Master, Ltd 0 301,038 0 301,038 301,038 0.30%
1994 Garden State 0 75,873 0 75,803 75,803 0.07%
Matthew Lindenbaum 0 5,952,592 0 5,952,592 5,952,592 5.87%
Bennett Lindenbaum 0 5,952,592 0 5,952,592 5,952,592 5.87%

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Page 1 of 27 – SEC Filing

Washington, D.C.  20549
Under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934

Astoria Financial Corporation

(Name of Issuer)

Common Stock, Par Value $0.01 per share

(Title of Class of Securities)
(CUSIP Number)
Matthew Lindenbaum
Basswood Capital Management, L.L.C.
645 Madison Avenue, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10022

(212) 521-9500

(Name, Address and Telephone Number of Person
Authorized to Receive Notices and Communications)
(with copies to)
Michael A. Schwartz, Esq.
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
787 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10019
(212) 728-8000

December 15, 2016

(Date of Event which Requires Filing of this Statement)
If the filing person has previously filed a statement on Schedule 13G to report the acquisition that is the subject of this Schedule 13D, and is filing this schedule because of §§240.13d-1(e), 240.13d-1(f) or 240.13d-1(g), check the following box:  ☐
Note: Schedules filed in paper format shall include a signed original and five copies of the schedule, including all exhibits.  See Rule 240.13d-7 for other parties to whom copies are to be sent.
* The remainder of this cover page shall be filled out for a reporting person’s initial filing on this form with respect to the subject class of securities, and for any subsequent amendment containing information which would alter disclosures provided in a prior cover page.
The information required on the remainder of this cover page shall not be deemed to be “filed” for the purpose of Section 18 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”) or otherwise subject to the liabilities of that section of the Act but shall be subject to all other provisions of the Act (however, see the Notes).

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