First Niagara Insiders Taking Stock

August 10, 2012 Updated Aug 10, 2012 at 7:22 AM EDT

By WKBW News
By Business First by Barbara Pinckney

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August 10, 2012 Updated Aug 10, 2012 at 7:22 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - Top officers of First Niagara Financial Group Inc. have purchased more than $500,000 worth of company stock since the start of August.

As a group, the six executives purchased 67,500 shares of First Niagara (NASDAQ: FNFG), on the open market, for a total of $517,100.

John Koelmel, CEO of First Niagara, got the ball rolling Aug. 1, with the largest of the six purchases.

Koelmel spent $188,250 on 25,000 shares, paying, on average, $7.53 a share. That put Koelmel's direct interest-not counting unexercised stock options-at 396,853 shares.

Including options, he controls about 900,000 of the 352 million shares of First Niagara stock outstanding.

Stock in First Niagara closed Aug. 8 at $8.15 a share. The stock's price has declined about 23 percent in the past year, prompting some analysts to consider it undervalued.

As of May, research firm Sterne Agee and Leach had a price target of $11 a share on First Niagara. The Buffalo-based bank recently concluded its purchase of more than 100 HSBC retail bank branches in a deal valued at $1 billion.

The options held by Koelmel and the other top executives are currently "under water," priced at $13.79 a share.

Other First Niagara executives to purchase stock this month include Daniel Cantara, vice president of commercial services; Gary Crosby, chief operating officer; and Gregory Norwood, chief financial officer.

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