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First Financial Bancorp Stock Downgraded (FFBC)

Editor's Note: TheStreet ratings do not represent the views of TheStreet's staff or its contributors. Ratings are established by computer based on metrics for performance (which includes growth, stock performance, efficiency and valuation) and risk (volatility and solvency). Companies with poor cash flow or high debt levels tend to earn lower ratings in our model.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- First Financial Bancorp (Nasdaq:FFBC) has been downgraded by TheStreet Ratings from buy to hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its expanding profit margins, notable return on equity and attractive valuation levels. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself, feeble growth in the company's earnings per share and unimpressive growth in net income.

  • EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Jim Cramer's Protégé, Dave Peltier, only buys Stocks Under $10 that he thinks could potentially double. See what he's trading today with a 14-day FREE pass.

Highlights from the ratings report include:

  • The gross profit margin for FIRST FINL BANCORP INC/OH is currently very high, coming in at 84.20%. It has increased from the same quarter the previous year. Regardless of the strong results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 17.35% trails the industry average.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Commercial Banks industry and the overall market on the basis of return on equity, FIRST FINL BANCORP INC/OH has outperformed in comparison with the industry average, but has underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500.
  • FIRST FINL BANCORP INC/OH's earnings per share declined by 9.7% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. Stable earnings per share over the past year indicate the company has managed its earnings and share float. We anticipate this stability to falter in the coming year and, in turn, the company to deliver lower earnings per share than prior full year. During the past fiscal year, FIRST FINL BANCORP INC/OH increased its bottom line by earning $1.15 versus $1.14 in the prior year. For the next year, the market is expecting a contraction of 6.1% in earnings ($1.08 versus $1.15).
  • The change in net income from the same quarter one year ago has exceeded that of the Commercial Banks industry average, but is less than that of the S&P 500. The net income has decreased by 9.3% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, dropping from $17.94 million to $16.27 million.
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First Financial Bancorp. operates as a bank holding company for First Financial Bank, National Association that provides commercial banking, and other banking and banking-related services. The company has a P/E ratio of 13, below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7. First Financial has a market cap of $895.8 million and is part of the financial sector and banking industry. Shares are up 4.7% year to date as of the close of trading on Wednesday.

You can view the full First Financial Ratings Report or get investment ideas from our investment research center.

-- Written by a member of TheStreet Ratings Staff

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