First Financial Holdings, Inc. Reports Operating Results of $0.82 per share; Increases Quarterly Cash Dividend

By First Financial Holdings, Inc., Associated Press | Posted - Apr 25th, 2014 @ 5:00am



COLUMBIA, S.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apr 25, 2014--First Financial Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCBT) today released its unaudited results of operations and other financial information for the three-month period ended March 31, 2014. Highlights of the first quarter 2014 include the following: Net income available to common shareholders of $15.8 million, or $0.66 diluted EPS in 1Q 2014, up 20.3%, compared to $13.2 million, or $0.55 diluted EPS in 4Q 2013, and up 48.8% from $10.6 million, or $0.63 diluted EPS in 1Q 2013; Operating earnings of $19.8 million, which exclude merger and branding expenses and include preferred stock dividends, or $0.82 diluted EPS in 1Q 2014, up 2.4%, compared to $19.3 million, or $0.80 diluted EPS in 4Q 2013, and up 65.2% from $12.0 million, or $0.71 diluted EPS in 1Q 2013; Return on average assets was 0.86% annualized in 1Q 2014 compared to 0.70% in 4Q 2013 and 0.84% in 1Q 2013; Operating return on average assets was 1.06% annualized in 1Q 2014 compared to 1.00% in 4Q 2013 and 0.95% in 1Q 2013; Return on average common tangible equity was 12.6% annualized in 1Q 2014 compared to 10.9% in 4Q 2013, and 11.9% in 1Q 2013; Operating return on average tangible common equity was 15.5% in 1Q 2014 compared to 15.5% in 4Q 2013 and 13.3% in 1Q 2013; Tangible common equity per share annualized percentage change increased by 14.5% during the first quarter of 2014; Redeemed all $65.0 million of Series A preferred stock on March 28, 2014; Net charge-offs of non-acquired loans decreased to 0.05% annualized in 1Q 2014, compared to 0.26% annualized in 4Q 2013 and 0.56% annualized in 1Q 2013; Operating efficiency ratio decreased to 64.1% in 1Q2014, compared to 66.3% in 4Q2013 and 64.5% in 1Q2013; Legacy loan growth for 1Q 2014 was $114.7 million or 16.0% annualized; and Core deposit growth, excluding CDs, up $146.5 million or 11.7% annualized in 1Q 2014.

Quarterly Cash Dividend

The Board of Directors of First Financial Holdings, Inc. has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.20 per share payable on its common stock. This per share amount is $0.01 per share, or 5.3% higher than the dividend paid in the immediately preceding quarter and is $0.02 per share, or 11.1%, higher than a year ago. The dividend will be payable on May 23, 2014 to shareholders of record as of May 16, 2014.

First Quarter 2014 Financial Performance

Please refer to the accompanying tables for detailed comparative data on results of operations and financial results.

The Company reported consolidated net income available to common shareholders of $15.8 million, or $0.66 per diluted common share for the three months ended March 31, 2014 up from $13.2 million, or $0.55 per diluted common share for the three months ended December 31, 2013. This $2.6 million increase was primarily the result of a reduction in merger and branding expenses and salaries and employee benefits; partially offset by an increase in the provision for loan losses, an increase in the effective tax rate to 34.3% from 34.0%, and a decrease in net interest income.

“We are off to a very solid start in 2014, and our company is continuing to build earnings momentum,” said Robert R. Hill, Jr., CEO of First Financial Holdings, Inc. “The first quarter was highlighted by low credit costs, improved asset quality and expense management, accompanied by strong organic growth in loans and core deposits. These improvements led to record operating earnings of $19.8 million. Our First Federal merger efficiencies helped drive a reduction in expenses of $6.5 million compared to the fourth quarter of 2013. Expenses were reduced or flat in every category with the exception of regulatory charges. Organic loan growth was also strong at 16% annualized and core deposit growth was 11.7%. I am pleased with the quantity and quality of the banking relationships we have had the opportunity to build. These quarterly results have enhanced the returns to our shareholders with an operating return on tangible common equity of 15.5%; a 14.5% annualized increase in tangible book value per common share, and an increase in our cash dividend.”

Asset Quality

During the first quarter of 2014, SCBT continued to experience improvement in asset quality, excluding acquired loans and acquired other real estate owned (OREO), as nonperforming loans declined by $4.8 million, or 11.4%. Non-acquired nonperforming assets (NPAs) as a percentage of total non-acquired loans and repossessed assets declined to 1.66% compared to 1.94% in the fourth quarter of 2013. NPAs, excluding acquired NPAs, declined by $6.1 million from the fourth quarter 2013 level.

At March 31, 2014, the allowance for non-acquired loan losses was $34.7 million or 1.16% of non-acquired period-end loans. The current allowance for loan losses provides 0.93 times coverage of period-end non-acquired nonperforming loans, up from 0.81 times at the end of the fourth quarter of 2013. Net charge-offs within the non-acquired portfolio were $332,000 for the quarter or 0.05% annualized, down from the fourth quarter of 2013 of $1.8 million or 0.26% annualized and down from the first quarter of 2013 of $3.6 million or 0.56% annualized.

OREO decreased modestly by $770,000 from the fourth quarter of 2013. OREO costs were relatively flat from the fourth quarter of 2013, down $106,000.

Net Interest Income and Margin

Non-taxable equivalent net interest income was $83.3 million for the first quarter of 2014, a $1.0 million decrease from the fourth quarter of 2013, resulting from the following:

1. A $145.5 million decrease in the average balance of acquired loans from the fourth quarter of 2013;

2. A decrease of 15 basis points in the yield on non-acquired loans; partially offset by

3. A $101.7 million increase in the average balance of investment securities resulting from the full quarter impact of the $205.9 million in GSEs and mortgage backed securities purchased during the fourth quarter of 2013.

Tax-equivalent net interest margin increased 8 basis points from the fourth quarter of 2013 and by 5 basis points from the first quarter of 2013. The Company’s average yield on interest-earning assets increased 6 basis points while the average rate on interest-bearing liabilities declined 2 basis points from the fourth quarter of 2013. During the first quarter of 2014, the Company’s average total assets remained at approximately $8.0 billion and average earning assets decreased slightly to $6.8 billion. Average interest-bearing liabilities declined by approximately $20.4 million.

Noninterest Income and Expense

Noninterest income was relatively flat for the first quarter of 2014 compared to the fourth quarter of 2013. Increases in mortgage banking income, trust and investment services income, and a reduction in the negative accretion on the indemnification asset, all totaling $1.4 million were offset by the combined $1.4 million decrease in service charges on deposit accounts and bankcard services income. Compared to the first quarter of 2013, noninterest income grew significantly by $11.2 million due to the First Financial merger.

Noninterest expense was $77.4 million in the first quarter of 2014, down from $83.9 million from the fourth quarter of 2013. This decrease from the fourth quarter of 2013 was primarily due to the impact of the cost saves being realized from the integration effort and reduced merger related cost. During the quarter, the company incurred $1.3 million of branding related cost. All expense categories either declined or were flat compared to fourth quarter of 2013, except for the FDIC assessment and other regulatory charges, which increased by $383,000. OREO and loan related charges remained level with the fourth quarter at $4.3 million. During the quarter, 24 legacy SCBT properties were written down by $1.7 million. Many of these were to liquidation levels in anticipation of an auction scheduled for May 2014. The efficiency ratio for the quarter was 73.8%, down from 79.2% in the fourth quarter. Our operating efficiency ratio, which excludes merger and branding expenses and OREO related expenses, was 64.1% compared to 66.3% in the fourth quarter.

Compared to the first quarter of 2013, noninterest expense was $31.0 million higher than first quarter of 2014. This significant increase was primarily the result of the First Financial merger.

Balance Sheet and Capital

At March 31, 2014, the Company’s total assets were $8.0 billion, up from $5.1 billion at March 31, 2013, and from $7.9 billion at December 31, 2013. Since December 31, 2013, the Company has experienced asset growth in the following areas: cash and cash equivalents by $133.2 million, or 27.8%, non-acquired loans by $114.7 million, or 4.0%, and loans held for sale by $26.6 million, or 87.0%. Driving the increase in loans held for sale in the first quarter of 2014, the Company decided to market the credit card loan portfolio and reclassified $17.6 million of loans from acquired loans to loans held for sale. Partially offsetting these increases were decreases in acquired loans by $188.2 million and the FDIC receivable by $26.0 million.

The Company’s book value per common share decreased to $38.73 per share at March 31, 2014, compared to $40.72 at December 31, 2013. Capital decreased by $47.3 million due primarily to the $65.0 million redemption of preferred stock in March of 2014, which was partially offset by the first quarter net income available to common shareholders of $15.8 million. Tangible book value (“TBV”) per common share increased by $0.81 per share to $23.11 at March 31, 2014 from $22.30 at December 31, 2013 due primarily to the first quarter net income available to common shareholders of $15.8 million. In addition, tangible common equity to tangible assets increased to 7.32% at March 31, 2014 up from 7.12% at the end of the fourth quarter of 2013.

The total risk-based capital ratio is estimated to be around 13.6% down from the fourth quarter of 2013 of 14.4%. Tier 1 leverage ratio decreased to approximately 8.6% from 9.3% at December 31, 2013. The decline is driven by the $65.0 million preferred stock redemption offset by the net income. The Company’s capital position remains “well-capitalized” by all measures at March 31, 2014.

“Our balance sheet continues to strengthen with the redemption of the preferred stock which had a dividend rate of 9%, and with the outstanding balance of demand deposits now exceeding our time deposits,” said John C. Pollok, COO and CFO. “Our net interest margin improved over the fourth quarter of 2013 to 4.99%, as the acquired loan portfolio yield increased from 7.20% to 7.56% for the quarter. Our funding cost remains low at 30 basis points reflecting the continued decline in time deposits and 11.7% growth in low costing core deposits.”

First Financial Holdings, Inc. will hold a conference call on April 25 th at 11 a.m. ET during which management will review earnings and performance trends. Callers wishing to participate may call toll-free by dialing 888-317-6016. The number for international participants is 412-317-6016. The conference ID number is 10043070. Participants can also listen to the live audio webcast through the Investor Relations section of www.SCBTonline.com. A replay will be available beginning April 25 th by 2:00 p.m. ET until 9:00 a.m. on May 12 th. To listen to the replay, dial 877-344-7529 or 412-317-0088. The pass code is 10043070.

First Financial Holdings, Inc., (NASDAQ:SCBT) Columbia, South Carolina is a registered bank holding company incorporated under the laws of South Carolina. The Company consists of SCBT, the Bank and the following divisions: NCBT, Community Bank & Trust, The Savannah Bank, and First Federal. The Bank also operates Minis & Co., Inc. and First Southeast 401k Fiduciaries, both wholly owned registered investment advisors; and First Southeast Investor Services, a wholly owned broker dealer. Providing financial services for over 80 years, First Financial Holdings, Inc. operates 136 locations in 19 South Carolina counties, 12 Georgia counties, and 4 North Carolina counties. First Financial Holdings, Inc. has assets of approximately $8.0 billion and its stock is traded under the symbol SCBT in the NASDAQ Global Select Market. More information can be found at www.SCBTonline.com.

Non-GAAP Measures

Statements included in this press release include non-GAAP measures and should be read along with the accompanying tables which provide a reconciliation of non-GAAP measures to GAAP measures. Management believes that these non-GAAP measures provide additional useful information. Non-GAAP measures should not be considered as an alternative to any measure of performance or financial condition as promulgated under GAAP, and investors should consider the company's performance and financial condition as reported under GAAP and all other relevant information when assessing the performance or financial condition of the company. Non-GAAP measures have limitations as analytical tools, and investors should not consider them in isolation or as a substitute for analysis of the company's results or financial condition as reported under GAAP.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward Looking Statements

Statements included in this report which are not historical in nature are intended to be, and are hereby identified as, forward looking statements for purposes of the safe harbor provided by Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Forward looking statements generally include words such as “expects,” “projects,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “intends,” “estimates,” “strategy,” “plan,” “potential,” “possible” and other similar expressions. The Company cautions readers that forward looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from anticipated results. Such risks and uncertainties, include, among others, the following possibilities: (1) the outcome of any legal proceedings instituted against the Company; (2) credit risks associated with an obligor’s failure to meet the terms of any contract with the bank or otherwise fail to perform as agreed under the terms of any loan-related document; (3) interest risk involving the effect of a change in interest rates on the bank’s earnings, the market value of the bank's loan and securities portfolios, and the market value of the Company's equity; (4) liquidity risk affecting the bank’s ability to meet its obligations when they come due; (5) risks associated with an anticipated increase in the Company's investment securities portfolio, including risks associated with acquiring and holding investment securities or potentially determining that the amount of investment securities the Company desires to acquire are not available on terms acceptable to the Company; (6) price risk focusing on changes in market factors that may affect the value of traded instruments in “mark-to-market” portfolios; (7) transaction risk arising from problems with service or product delivery; (8) compliance risk involving risk to earnings or capital resulting from violations of or nonconformance with laws, rules, regulations, prescribed practices, or ethical standards; (9) regulatory change risk resulting from new laws, rules, regulations, accounting principles, proscribed practices or ethical standards, including, without limitation, increased capital requirements (including, without limitation, the impact of the capital rules adopted to implement Basel III), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rules and regulations, and potential changes in accounting principles relating to loan loss recognition; (10) strategic risk resulting from adverse business decisions or improper implementation of business decisions; (11) reputation risk that adversely affects earnings or capital arising from negative public opinion; (12) terrorist activities risk that results in loss of consumer confidence and economic disruptions; (13) cybersecurity risk related to our dependence on internal computer systems and the technology of outside service providers, as well as the potential impacts of third-party security breaches, subjects the company to potential business disruptions or financial losses resulting from deliberate attacks or unintentional events; (14) economic downturn risk potentially resulting in deterioration in the credit markets, greater than expected non-interest expenses, excessive loan losses and other negative consequences, which risks could be exacerbated by potential negative economic developments resulting from federal spending cuts and/or one or more federal budget-related impasses or actions; (15) greater than expected noninterest expenses; (16) excessive loan losses; (17) failure to realize synergies and other financial benefits from, and to limit liabilities associates with, mergers and acquisitions, including, without limitation, merger with First Financial Holdings, Inc. ("FFCH"), within the expected time frame; (18) potential deposit attrition, higher than expected costs, customer loss and business disruption associated with merger and acquisition integration, including, without limitation, with respect to FFCH, and including, without limitation, potential difficulties in maintaining relationships with key personnel and other integration related-matters; (19) the risks of fluctuations in market prices for Company common stock that may or may not reflect economic condition or performance of the Company; (20) the payment of dividends on Company common stock is subject to regulatory supervision as well as the discretion of the board of directors of the Company, the Company's performance and other factors; and (21) other risks and uncertainties disclosed in the Company's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC or disclosed in documents filed or furnished by the Company with or to the SEC after the filing of such Annual report on Form 10-K, any of which could cause actual results to differ materially from future results expressed, implied or otherwise anticipated by such forward looking statements. The Company undertakes no obligation to update or otherwise revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

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