New Haven-based NewAlliance Bank has reached an agreement to acquire a Fairfield County community bank – its second acquisition in about a month.

NewAlliance Bancshares, the bank’s parent company, acquired Stamford-based Cornerstone Bancorp in a cash-and-stock transaction valued at about $48.7 million. Cornerstone, the parent company of Cornerstone Bank, has six branches in Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk and Westport.

The acquisition will add assets of $214 million and deposits of $177 million to NewAlliance. The acquisition also gives NewAlliance inroads into the sought-after banking market in Fairfield County. The bank’s locations cover a broad swath of Connecticut, but it hasn’t entered Fairfield County yet, according to Kevin Timmons, senior analyst at New York-based CL King.

“Fairfield obviously has an attractive demographic,” Timmons said.

The county is one of the wealthiest in Connecticut.

“This transaction builds on our proven track record of several successful acquisitions and complements our strategy to be a dominant player in the region’s community banking market,” said Peyton R. Patterson, chairwoman, president and chief executive officer of NewAlliance in a prepared statement. “It is also our first step into Fairfield County and a great complement to our existing franchise. By entering Fairfield County, we see excellent potential for growth from our wealth management and trust services to our business and retail banking operations.”

‘Decent’ Acquisitions

Last month, NewAlliance reached an agreement to acquire Hartford-based Trust Co. of Connecticut for $19.3 million in cash and stock. That acquisition will add more than $700 million to the bank’s assets under management.

The two acquisitions are a part of a strategy that has been in the works since NewAlliance first came to be, Timmons said. NewAlliance Bank was formed in April 2004 through the merger of New Haven Savings Bank, Savings Bank of Manchester and Tolland Bank. The bank now has 64 branches in five Connecticut counties: Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Tolland and Windham. As of Dec. 31, 2004, it had $6.3 billion in assets and $3.7 billion in deposits.

“Their strategy has been pretty evident since their conversion,” Timmons said.

In the past year, the bank has been trying to expand across Connecticut. It has a lot of capital and needs to make it work for the bank. Neither of its recent acquisitions was significant and sizeable, but both accomplished something for the bank, Timmons noted.

“They are decent little acquisitions,” he said.

Merrill J. Forgotson, president and chief executive officer of Cornerstone, will become senior vice president of NewAlliance and head of business banking in NewAlliance’s Fairfield County region after the transaction closes, which is expected to happen at the beginning of 2006.

“This is a great partnership for Cornerstone Bancorp as it brings together two companies with the same commitment to community banking and personal service,” Forgotson said in a prepared statement. “We are pleased we will be able to provide our customers with a broader array of products and services.”

NewAlliance likely will continue shopping for new acquisition possibilities in their market, Timmons said.

“I don’t see them doing anything dramatic [like buying a bank in the South] … but they are clearly looking for new deals,” he said.

Timmons added, however, that he wouldn’t be surprised if the bank crossed state lines into Massachusetts or Westchester County. For a bank to have a successful acquisition strategy, it must be opportunistic, he said.

“You have your eyes and ears open all the time,” he noted.

Cornerstone shareholders will be entitled to receive either 2.52 shares of NewAlliance common stock or $35 in cash for every share of Cornerstone Bancorp stock owned, provided that 70 percent of total consideration will be paid with NewAlliance stock, under the terms of the agreement. At $35, the purchase price represents 197 percent of book value and 23.6 times Cornerstone’s trailing earnings as of Dec. 31, 2004. It represents a premium of 10.4 percent over Cornerstone’s closing price Tuesday on the American Stock Exchange.

The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of NewAlliance Bancshares and Cornerstone Bancorp. It is now subject to the approval of Cornerstone shareholders, as well as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Federal Reserve Bank and the Connecticut banking commissioner. Proxy materials providing detailed information relating to the acquisition will be sent to Cornerstone Bancorp shareholders for their consideration.

NewAlliance is the third-largest banking institution that maintains its headquarters in the state.