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10 Buy Rated Regional Bank Stocks (Update 3)


9. First Financial Bankshares

First Financial Bankshares (FFIN) of Abilene, Texas, as seen its stock rise 4% year-to-date, closing Monday at $34.88. The five-year total return is 49%. Based on a 24-cent quarterly payout, the shares have a dividend yield of 2.75%.

The stock is rated an "A-minus" by TheStreet Ratings.

The company had $3.9 billion in total assets as of Sept. 30, with 11 separately chartered bank subsidiaries operating 52 branches in Texas.

First Financial Bankshares hasn't scheduled its fourth-quarter earnings announcement. The consensus among analysts polled by FactSet is for the company to post fourth-quarter EPS of 56 cents a share, down a penny from EPS of 57 cents during the third quarter, but increasing from 49 cents a share during the fourth quarter of 2010.

The company was featured in November among TheStreet's 10 Bank Stocks Bringing Home the Bacon, with ROA of over 1.60% over the previous 10 quarters.

The company announced in October that it would "activate its existing stock repurchase plan to repurchase up to 750,000 shares of its common stock, which represents approximately 2.4 percent of the Company's outstanding shares, through September 30, 2014."

Sterne Agee analyst Brett Rabatin in his Texas/Oklahoma earnings previous on Jan. 13 said that his fourth-quarter earnings estimate for First Financial Bankshares matched the consensus, adding that "historically, above average returns, consistent, high-quality earnings, and a strong balance with a TX deposit franchise have supported a premium valuation; however, upside to current profitability levels appears limited and we view the probability of multiple expansion as too low to be bullish despite what will probably be another solid quarter from one of the most consistent performers in the banking industry."

The shares trade for 2.5 times tangible book value, according to SNL Financial, and for 16 times the consensus 2012 EPS estimate of $2.19, among analysts polled by FactSet.

It's clear that First Financial Bankshares isn't a bargain bank stock, but you get what you pay for, which in this case, includes stellar long-term management and a very solid track record for earnings performance.

Interested in more on First Financial Bankshares? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

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