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10 Bank Stocks Ready for a 2012 Dividend Boost

3. NBT Bancorp

Shares of NBT Bancorp (NBTB) of Norwich, N.Y., closed at $20.94, for a year-to-date decline of 11%. Based on a quarterly dividend payout of 20 cents, the shares have a dividend yield of 3.82%.

The company had $5.5 billion in total assets as of Sept 30 with 128 branches in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Massachusetts.

NBT last Wednesday announced it would expand further in New England, with an agreement to acquire Hampshire First Bank of Manchester, N.H., for $45 million in cash and stock. Hampshire First had $273 million in assets as of Sept. 30, with five offices. The deal is subject to approval by Hampshire First's shareholders and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2012.

Third-quarter earnings were $15.2 million, or45 cents a share, increasing from $14.7 million, or 43 cents a share, in the second quarter, and $14.6 million, or 42 cents a share, in the third quarter of 2010.

The provision for loan losses declined to $5.2 million in the third quarter, from $6.0 million the previous quarter, and $7.5 million a year earlier

Third-quarter net interest income was down slightly year-over-year, to $50.4 million The net interest margin declined to a tax-adjusted 4.14% from 4.15% a year earlier.

The third-quarter ROA was 1.13%, according to SNL Financial.

Guggenheim Securities analyst David Darst on Nov. 16 lowered his rating on NBT to neutral, given the recent improvement in the share price and valuation," which was close to the analyst's price target of $22.00. The analyst added that "near-term catalysts include potential M&A activity with a common raise," and said that the company could target the branches that First Niagara Financial Group (FNFG) will be forced to divest as part of its deal to acquire HSBC's (HBC) Upstate New York branch network.

The shares trade for 11.6 times the consensus 2012 EPS estimate of $1.81, among analysts polled by FactSet, and 1.7 times the company's reported Sept. 30 tangible book value of $12.24.

All three analysts covering NBT Bancorp have neutral ratings on the shares.

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