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Banks Showing Some Dividend Potential

"As we report another quarter of record earnings, both on an overall and core level, we feel it is appropriate to increase the common stock dividend," B. G. Hartley, Chairman and CEO of Southside Bancshares (SBSI) said in a statement on April 16. "We believe it is especially important to offer tangible rewards for our success in this challenging economic environment."

Southside, a regional bank based in Tyler, Texas, with $2.7 billion in assets, has been raising its dividend consistently for more than a decade and pays special dividends frequently. Its most recent quarterly payout was 14 cents, up from 10.88 cents last year, representing a second-quarter yield of 2.45%, according to SNL Financial. Its shares haven't been as volatile as bigger players either, ranging from $13.50 when the market tumbled last March, to a high of $27 in September 2008. It has recently traded in the mid-$23 range.

Southside has just 27 peers that have raised dividends in 2009, vs. 196 banks that have slashed payouts, according to SNL. But as more banks repay TARP, the economy continues to stabilize, and the Fed provides clarity on capital mandates, Southside's ranks are poised to grow.

At that point, says SNL's Yates, healthier banks will finally "be able to take some of the money and give it back to the shareholders."

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.

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