North Fork Bancorp, Melville, N.Y., is buying its city-based neighbor Greenpoint Financial, the nation's 18th-largest residential lender, for $6.3 billion in stock.The acquisition will catapult NFB -- which has little or no presence in residential finance -- to the top tier of mortgage banking. According to figures compiled by National Mortgage News and the Quarterly Data Report, Greenpoint's subsidiary, Greenpoint Funding of Novato, Calif., is also the nation's 25th-largest residential servicer. NFB is a commercial bank, and the New York-based Greenpoint is a thrift. According to NFB, the deal will create "the largest regional bank" in the New York metropolitan area, and the 16th-largest bank in the United States. The combined institution will have $50 billion in assets and 340 branches. Greenpoint's sale has been rumored for months. Recently it was thought that a foreign bank would be the buyer.

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