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10 First Quarter Bank Stock Winners

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The best-performing bank stocks during the first quarter represent a wide variety of business models, with one major credit card lender, some troubled institutions on the rebound, and others benefiting from government-assisted acquisitions of failed institutions.

TheStreet has narrowed down the first-quarter winners list by only including bank stocks with average daily trading volume of at least 50,000 shares and with consensus earnings estimates available for 2011 and 2012.

10. United Community Banks

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Shares of United Community Banks (UCBI) of Blairsville, Ga., closed at $2.33 on Thursday, returning 19% for the first quarter of 2011.

The company's shares rose 29% to close at $1.98 on March 17, after United Community announced plans to raise $380 million in common equity through a private placement to a group of investors led by Corsair Capital LLC, and plans to sell $293 million in problem loans during the second quarter.

The shares popped another 16% on Thursday, after the company announced it had completed the capital raise.

The company owes $180 million in government bailout funds received through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, and in February deferred its most recently quarterly dividend on preferred shares held by the U.S. Treasury Department.

United Community is scheduled to announce its first-quarter results on April 28, before the market opens. The consensus among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for United Community to post a net loss of $1.07 a share for the first quarter and a loss of 60 cents a share for all of 2011. The consensus EPS estimate for 2012 is 15 cents.

Out of eight analysts covering United Community, one rates the shares a buy, while the remaining analysts all have neutral ratings. On Thursday, Sandler O'Neill analyst Kevin Fitzsimmons upgraded the shares to a buy, saying that the "risk-reward on UCBI [was] more intriguing with the sizable raise complete, problem loans down to a much more manageable level, and an accelerated return to profitability."

Sandler O'Neill was one of United Community's advisors for the common equity raise completed in March.
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