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10 Most Profitable Bank Stocks (Update 1)

2. Westamerica Bancorp

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San Rafael, California-based Westamerica Bancorp (WABC) was the only bank in the list to see a slight drop in its return on assets in 2011.

The measure dropped to 1.78% from 1.95% in 2010. That still places it in the second place in the profitability rankings.

The bank's fourth-quarter profit fell short of estimates, coming in at 77 cents per share. Average loans declined 4% sequentially, due to a 3% drop in legacy balances. Margins also dropped 8 basis points to 5.42%.

Still RBC Capital analyst Joe Morford believes the bank's "superior profitability" and "flight to quality" status makes it an attractive long-term core holding in a challenging environment.

The stock is richly valued at 15 times forward earnings per share. Three analysts rate the stock a buy or outperform, 6 a hold and one has a sell rating.

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