CHARTER FINANCIAL PURCHASES WENTWORTH

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Charter Financial Inc. expanded its plastics industry financing business Jan. 2 by acquiring Wentworth Capital Corp. of Portsmouth, N.H., for undisclosed terms.

Charter ``has had positive experiences'' in its plastics industry financing and decided Wentworth fit its growth strategy, said Ellen Scully, Charter's senior vice president of marketing.

Most of Charter's business has been in health-care, media and communications, technology, printing and manufacturing industries. Its sales last year were more than $250 million, Scully said in a telephone interview from her firm's office in New York.

Wentworth will become more competitive through the deal, according to Samuel Smith III, its president.

Charter's institutional capital will give Wentworth lower borrowing costs and will allow it to look at financing larger deals, Smith said. It has specialized in midsized companies.

Smith said his firm is unique because it does almost all its business in the plastics industry and is one of a few companies that will finance mold purchases.

``Tools can be as expensive as the press and we believe we have [to finance them],'' Smith said.

Wentworth is also unusual in that it aggressively pursues auxiliary equipment financing as part of its service of turnkey financing programs.

Smith forecast Wentworth's sales will reach more than $100 million this year. It provides financing for injection molders, blow molders, film and profile extruders, and other processors, and gets involved in acquisitions and mergers. Smith said its main competitors include GE Capital Corp. of Stamford, Conn., CIT Group of Livingston, N.J., and regional banks.

Scully said Charter will keep the Wentworth name and management team. Wentworth has more than 20 years of lending experience. Charter was established in 1985 as a successor company to Commercial Funding in New York.