HAMILTON, N.J., April 24, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- First Bank (NASDAQ:FRBA) today announced higher earnings for the fifth consecutive quarter. Net income for first quarter 2017 was $1.94 million or $0.17 per diluted share, compared to $1.36 million or $0.14 per diluted share for the first quarter of 2016. Net income increased by 43.3% and diluted earnings per share increased by $0.03, or 21%, despite a 2.2 million share increase in weighted average diluted shares outstanding from March 2016. The increase in first quarter net income was primarily a result of net interest income growth of 19.7%, which resulted from a 19.7% increase in average interest-earning assets.
First Quarter 2017 Performance Highlights:
- Total net revenue (net interest income + non-interest income) for first quarter 2017 increased by 20.1%, or $1.4 million, to $8.6 million, compared to the prior year quarter.
- First quarter 2017 average loans of $900.8 million were up $168.5 million, or 23.0%, from first quarter 2016, and were up $51.0 million, or 6.0% from fourth quarter 2016.
- Total deposits of $934.3 million at March 31, 2017 were up $135.3 million, or 16.9%, compared to March 31, 2016, and were up $39.4 million, or 4.4%, compared to December 31, 2016.
- Asset quality metrics remained favorable, with net loan charge-offs to average loans of just 0.06% for first quarter 2017 compared to 0.16% in first quarter 2016. Nonperforming loans to total loans of 0.57% at March 31, 2017, were up slightly in comparison to 0.54% at March 31, 2016, and down compared to 0.66% at December 31, 2016.
- The Bank's efficiency ratio improved to 61.32% for the first quarter, down from 62.48% for first quarter 2016.
“We continued our positive trend with a solid performance in the first quarter characterized by loan and deposit growth and profit improvement, which was reflective of our team’s continued hard work and dedication to meeting the needs of our customers,” said Patrick L. Ryan, President and Chief Executive Officer. “During the quarter we focused on rebuilding the loan pipeline that fueled our very strong loan growth during the second half of 2016. In addition, we announced a definitive agreement to acquire Bucks County Bank, a transaction that will strengthen our market presence in the attractive Bucks County, Pennsylvania market. We consider this merger a great fit of two organizations that share a similar customer-centric culture along with a focus on commercial and industrial and owner occupied commercial real estate lending. Furthermore, on April 18, our Board declared a $0.02 per share cash dividend, reflective of our directors’ desire to provide cash to shareholders, while at the same time retaining an appropriate level of capital to fund the Bank’s ongoing growth activities. I’m confident that we will continue to perform throughout 2017, based on our reasoned and consistent approach to business and dedication to effective risk management. We remain excited about the near-term business opportunities within our market area, as well as the steps we’ve taken to raise our competitive profile.”
The Bank's net interest income for first quarter 2017 was $8.1 million, an increase of $1.3 million, or 19.7%, compared to $6.8 million in the first quarter of 2016. Our growth was driven by a 17.9% increase in interest and dividend income primarily a result of a $168.5 million increase in average loan balances compared with the first quarter of 2016. This was somewhat offset by increased interest expense of $286,000 for the comparative quarter, which reflected average balance increases for time deposits, transaction accounts and borrowings.
The first quarter 2017 tax equivalent net interest margin was 3.16%, an increase of two basis points compared to the prior year quarter, and an increase of four basis points compared to the linked fourth quarter of 2016. The net interest margin increase compared to first quarter 2016 was primarily the result of higher average interest-earning assets and a six basis point drop in the average rate paid on interest-bearing liabilities.
The provision for loan losses for the first quarter of 2017 totaled $438,000, a decrease of $375,000 compared to the first quarter of 2016, and a decrease of $516,000 compared to the linked fourth quarter of 2016. The decrease in the first quarter 2017 provision reflected a continuation of favorable asset quality metrics, as well as slower loan growth than in the comparable periods.
First quarter 2017 non-interest income increased $99,000, to $459,000, compared to $360,000 in first quarter 2016, primarily a result of gains on the sale of SBA loans of $136,000 and increased income from bank owned life insurance of $50,000, partially offset by lower gains on recovery of acquired loans.
First quarter 2017 non-interest expense of $5.3 million was up $923,000 compared to first quarter 2016. The increase in non-interest expense, compared to first quarter 2016, was primarily a result of increased salaries and employee benefits, $150,000 of costs associated with the agreement to acquire Bucks County Bank and slight increases in other expenses associated with our growth. The increase in salaries and employee benefits was due to several factors, including an increase in base salaries related to additional employees hired during 2016, higher bonus related costs, including FICA taxes, and higher health insurance costs.
Pre-provision net revenue for the first quarter of 2017 was $3.2 million, an increase of $620,000, or 23.6%, compared to the first quarter of 2016, and declined $139,000 compared to the linked fourth quarter of 2016. The decline in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the fourth quarter of 2016 was due to an increase in non-interest expense. The largest increase in non-interest expense was due to a $137,000 increase in FICA taxes, a component of salaries and employee benefit expenses. The FICA increase related to the payment of employee bonuses in March 2017.
 A non-U.S. GAAP metric defined by SNL Financial as net interest income before provision for loan losses plus non-interest income excluding non-ordinary items (e.g. gains on sale of investment securities, gains on recovery of acquired loans, and bargain purchase gains) minus non-interest expense excluding non-ordinary items (e.g. merger related expenses and other one-time, non-ordinary costs).
Income tax expense for the first quarter of 2017 was $886,000, an increase of $295,000 compared to the first quarter of 2016, reflecting higher pre-tax income and a slightly higher effective tax rate. First quarter income tax expense decreased $5,000 compared to $891,000 for fourth quarter 2016. The first quarter effective income tax rate was 31.3%, compared to 30.4% for first quarter 2016 and 33.0% for fourth quarter 2016.
Total assets at March 31, 2017 were $1.1 billion, an increase of $179.0 million, or 19.5%, compared to the end of first quarter 2016, and an increase of $23.1 million, or 2.2%, compared to December 31, 2016. Total loans were $915.3 million at quarter end, an increase of $157.1 million or 20.7% compared to March 31, 2016, and an increase of $16.9 million compared to the linked fourth quarter of 2016.
Total deposits were $934.3 million at March 31, 2017, an increase of $135.3 million, or 16.9%, compared to March 31, 2016, and an increase of $39.4 million, or 4.4% compared to December 31, 2016. Non-interest bearing deposits totaled $127.8 million at March 31, 2017, an increase of $26.2 million, or 25.8% from March 31, 2016, reflective of the Bank’s expanding commercial lending relationships. Non-interest bearing deposits at March 31, 2017 were up $9.2 million, or 7.7%, compared to December 31, 2016.
Stockholders' equity increased to $91.0 million at March 31, 2017, up $20.6 million or 29.2% compared to March 31, 2016, primarily a result of the capital offering completed in June 2016, which raised $13.4 million in net new capital, and $6.8 million of additional retained earnings. First quarter 2017 stockholders’ equity increased by $2.2 million from year end 2016 primarily due to first quarter net income.
The Bank's asset quality metrics remained stable during the first quarter of 2017, reflective of disciplined risk management and underwriting standards. Net charge-offs were $146,000 for the first quarter of 2017, compared to $294,000 for first quarter 2016 and $424,000 for the fourth quarter of 2016. Net charge-offs as an annualized percentage of average loans were 0.06% in first quarter 2017, compared to 0.16% in first quarter 2016 and 0.20% in the linked fourth quarter of 2016. Nonperforming loans as a percentage of total loans at March 31, 2017 were 0.57%, compared with 0.54% at March 31, 2016 and 0.66% on December 31, 2016. The allowance for loan losses to nonperforming loans was 193.35% at March 31, 2017, compared with 206.62% at March 31, 2016, and 164.67% at the end of fourth quarter 2016.
As of March 31, 2017, the Bank exceeded all regulatory capital requirements to be considered well capitalized with a Tier 1 Leverage ratio of 8.41%, a Tier 1 Risk-Based capital ratio of 8.82%, a Common Equity Tier 1 Capital ("CET1") ratio of 8.82%, and a Total Risk-Based capital ratio of 11.93%.
Quarterly Cash Dividend Declared
On April 18, 2017, the Bank’s Board of Directors declared and approved a $0.02 per share quarterly cash dividend on the Bank’s common stock, payable on May 30, 2017, to shareholders of record as of May 10, 2017. In approving the dividend, the Bank’s Board stated that this dividend provides shareholders an added tangible benefit which it believes is appropriate given the Bank’s current financial performance, momentum and near-term prospects.
Merger Agreement with Bucks County Bank
First Bank announced on March 29, 2017, that it had entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Bucks County Bank (OTC Pink:BKCS) of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals. Bucks County Bank shareholders are to receive 0.98 shares of First Bank common stock in an all-stock exchange. First Bank expects to issue approximately 2.4 million new shares of First Bank common stock to consummate this transaction, which is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2017.
Bucks County Bank serves small and mid-size businesses through four full-service locations in Doylestown, Warminster, Bensalem and Levittown, Pennsylvania. On December 31, 2016, it had assets of approximately $198 million, loans of $179 million and deposits of $145 million. Following the merger, First Bank will have approximately $1.3 billion in assets with 14 branches located throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.
About First Bank
First Bank (www.firstbanknj.com) is a New Jersey state-chartered bank with ten full-service branches in Cranbury, Denville, Ewing, Flemington, Hamilton, Lawrence, Randolph, Somerset and Williamstown, New Jersey, and Trevose, Pennsylvania. With $1.1 billion in assets as of March 31, 2017, First Bank offers a traditional range of deposit and loan products to individuals and businesses throughout the New York City to Philadelphia corridor. First Bank's common stock is listed on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol "FRBA".