9. First Niagara Financial Group
Shares of First Niagara Financial (FNFG) of Buffalo, N.Y. closed at $14.23 Monday, up 7% year-to-date. Based on a quarterly payout of 15 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 4.22%. The company increased the dividend a penny when it announced its third-quarter results. SNL Financial reported that during First Niagara's presentation at the Sandler O'Neill East Coast Financial Services Conference in November, CFO Michael Harrington said that "the days of capital accumulation are over for us," and that the company would eventually look to deploy $500 million in excess capital. That could mean that further dividend increases are in store.On December 20, shareholders of First Niagara and NewAlliance Bancshares (NAL) of New Haven, Conn. approved the companies' merger deal, which is expected to close in April 2011, subject to regulatory approval. New Alliance has $8.8 billion in total assets and 88 branches in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. The combined company will have total assets of about $29 billion and 340 branches in Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. On August 18, First Niagara agreed to pay $14.25 a share in cash and stock for NewAlliance, in a deal valued at $1.5 billion. The deal price represented a 25% premium to NewAlliance's closing price of $11.41 on August 17. The deal marked the third recent major expansion First Niagara into neighboring markets, following the acquisition of Harleysville National of Harleysville, Penn. which was acquired on April 9 and the purchase of 57 National City Bank branches in western Pennsylvania in September 2009. Income Statement Third-quarter net income was $45.6 million, or 22 cents a share, increasing from $10.9 million, or 7 cents a share, a year earlier, as First Niagara saw its expansion pay-off. Net interest income increased 63% year-over-year to $161.3 million. The company's third-quarter ROA was 0.89% and its dividend payout ratio was 64%. Balance Sheet Total assets were $20.9 billion as of September 30 and the NPA ratio was a 0.75%, which is a low level of problem assets in the current environment. The company's Tier 1 leverage ratio was 8.37% and its total risk-based capital ratio was 15.10% as of September 30. According to SNL Financial, the tangible common equity ratio was 8.63%. Stock Ratios The shares trade for 1.7 times tangible book value according to SNL and 14 times the 2011 consensus earnings estimate of $1.02 a share. Analyst Ratings Among the 10 analysts covering First Niagara, six rate the shares a buy, while the other four recommend investors hold the shares.
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