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First Financial Bancorp's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Please refer to the forward-looking statement disclosure contained in the first quarter 2012 earnings release, as well as our SEC filings for a full discussion of the company’s risk factors. The information we provide today is accurate as of March 31, 2012, and we will not be updating any forward-looking statements to reflect facts or circumstances after this call.

I will now turn the call over Claude Davis. Dave?

Claude E. Davis

Thank you, Ken, and thank you to those joining the call today. We’re pleased to announce another quarter of strong performance, reporting net income of $17 million or $0.29 per diluted common share. Return on average assets was 1.05%, and return on average shareholders’ equity was 9.67% for the quarter. During the quarter, we incurred $1.8 million of expenses not expected to recur, which reduced earnings per share by $0.02.

Our adjusted pre-tax, pre-provision earnings were $31.2 million for the quarter or 1.94% of average asset. Adjusted pre-tax, pre-provision earnings were essentially flat as higher net interest income and fee revenue were offset by higher operating expenses, primarily compensation cost due to a full quarter’s impact of the associates joining us from Flagstar, as well as seasonal factors.

We were extremely pleased with our net interest margins for the quarter, which increased 19 basis points to 4.51%, driven primarily by performance in our investment portfolio. Frank will provide more details on these items later in the call.

We paid our third variable dividend during the quarter, representing a 100% dividend payout ratio based on our fourth quarter’s reported earnings per share of $0.31. We’re also pleased to announce that the Board of Directors has approved an increase in our regular dividend to $0.15 per share, an increase of 25%.

While economic conditions in our operating markets have yet to fully recover, the increase reflects our confidence in sustainability of our earnings power and our continued commitment to providing shareholders with a solid long-term return on their investment in First Financial.

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