2. First California Financial
Shares of First California Financial Group (FCAL) of Westlake Village closed at $3.75 Thursday, returning 34% during the first quarter.
The company has been expanding by purchasing failed institutions from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, including San Luis Trust Bank, FSB, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., on February 18 and Western Commercial Bank of Woodland Hills, Calif., in November.First California owes $25 million in TARP money. On February 23, Don Worthington of Howe Barnes Hoefer & Arnett reiterated his buy rating and $4 price target for the company's shares, saying the San Luis Trust Bank transaction would be "immediately accretive to earnings," and that the acquisition fit "within FCAL's strategy of cobbling together a regional bank franchise, through both organic growth and acquisitions, that will eventually encompass most of Southern California." Analysts expect First California to earn 4 cents a share during the first quarter, 27 cents a share for all of 2011 and 40 cents a share in 2012. Two of the three analysts covering First California rate the shares a buy, while the remaining analyst has a neutral rating.