Florida's Troubled Banks

This column originally posted on RealMoney.com on Feb. 10. For more information about subscribing to RealMoney , please click here.

It may be some time before things brighten again for the Sunshine State's banks.

Florida, where a once-hot real estate market made the state among the hardest-hit in the credit crisis, has seen three banks fail since the start of 2008. Many other financial institutions in the state have exhibited ragged loan quality and depleted capital.

Since there's more than one way to identify troubled banks, we are presenting three lists of Florida banks suffering from the state's boom-and-bust cycle.

Preliminary call report data is now available for roughly 98% of U.S. banks (but not for savings and loan institutions). Based on the early data, the number of banks considered less than well capitalized per regulatory guidelines rose to 172 as of Dec. 31 from 143 in September.

One bank that would have appeared on all three lists would have been Ocala National Bank, which failed on Jan. 30, with deposits assumed by CenterState Banks of Florida ( CSFL).

Since Dec. 31 data for banks is not yet finalized, please be advised:

The lists are based on preliminary data: Most banks have filed their call reports, which our data provider, Highline Financial, obtains from the FDIC. The data was not yet finalized when we downloaded it on Feb. 9, and there were at least 100 banks that had not filed yet. This data is often updated or corrected by banks before it is finalized.

The list only includes banks: Data for the over 800 savings and loan institutions supervised by the Office of Thrift Supervision is not available.

The data is for the banks themselves, not holding companies.

A bank on the list may have raised capital since Dec. 31: Most community banks with capital concerns are trying very hard to raise capital any way they can. Some on the list may have raised significant capital privately since filing their Dec. 31 call reports.

Nonperforming Assets to Total Assets

The first list includes the 20 Florida banks with the highest ratio of nonperforming assets to total assets as of Dec. 31:

Florida Banks with Weakest Asset Quality
12/31/2008 ($Mil)
Highline Financial, Inc

Leading the list is Florida Community Bank of Immokalee, with a nonperforming assets ratio of 22.81% as of Dec. 31. Despite its very high level of (mainly) nonperforming construction and development loans in Collier County on the Gulf Coast, the institution's year-end reserve coverage of 7.94% of total loans was more than double its loan charge-off rate for 2008. Even after posting a net loss of $41 million for 2008, Florida Community was well capitalized, with tier-1 leverage and risk-based capital ratios of 8.29% and 12.03%. It will be very interesting to see how this one plays out.

Since no one ratio can tell the whole story we have included capital ratios and the ratio of nonperforming loans to core capital and loan loss reserves, also known as the "Texas ratio."

For example, Cortez Community Bank had a nonperforming assets ratio of 10.18%, but with tier-1 leverage and risk-based capital ratios of 20.42% and 24.50%, the Texas ratio was 42.34%, the lowest on the list. While exposure of 42.34% of an institution's capital to problem loans is nothing to sneeze at, the collateral securing the institutions nonperforming loans (mostly commercial construction) has enough value that even if they were all charged-off, the institution would still be well capitalized.

Of course, it's also important to look into a bank's holding company. Vision Bank, with $923 million in total assets, is held by Park National Corp. ( PRK), a $6.8 billion Newark, Ohio holding company whose main subsidiary is Park National Bank. The holding company received a $100 million capital infusion on Dec. 23, issuing preferred stock and warrants to the Treasury through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Meanwhile, main subsidiary Park National Bank, with $6.2 billion in assets, remained profitable and well capitalized through 2008, with a year-end nonperforming assets ratio of 1.23% and a net charge-off ratio of 0.83%.

Net Charge-offs

Since our first list might omit banks that charged-off the majority of their problem loans before the end of the year, the second list includes the five banks with the highest ratios of net loan charge-offs (actual loan losses) to average loans for 2008.

Florida Banks with Highest Loan Charge-off Ratios for 2008
Highline Financial, Inc

One thing these five have in common is that their year-end ratios of loan loss reserves to total loans were way behind their pace of net loan charge-offs for 2008. This means that if charge-off activity over the next couple of quarters stays at the same pace, more net losses -- large ones -- are on the way.

Riverside Bank of the Gulf Coast not only had the highest level of charge-offs of remaining Florida banks for 2008, it had the lowest tier-1 leverage ratio, 1.23%, as of Dec. 31. A call to the institution requesting comment was not returned.

Synovus Bank of St. Petersburg, is, of course, a subsidiary of Synovus Financial ( SNV) of Birmingham, Ala.

Undercapitalized Banks

Finally, tying into TheStreet.com's recent discussion and partial listing of undercapitalized banks, the third list includes the seven Florida banks that were below well-capitalized per regulatory guidelines, as of Dec. 31.

Below-Well-Capitalized Florida Banks
Highline Financial, Inc


TheStreet.com Ratings issues independent and very conservative financial strength ratings on each of the nation's 8,500 banks and savings and loans which are available at no charge on the Banks & Thrifts Screener. In addition, the Financial Strength Ratings for 4,000 life, health, annuity, and property/casualty insurers are available on the Insurers & HMOs Screener.

At the time of publication, van Doorn held shares of Riverside Banking Co., the privately held holding company for Riverside National Bank of Florida, where he used to work. Riverside National Bank of Florida is separately-held from Riverside Bank of the Coast.

Philip W. van Doorn joined TheStreet.com Ratings., Inc., in February 2007. He is the senior analyst responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. He also comments on industry and regulatory trends. Mr. van Doorn has fifteen years experience, having served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Florida, and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Long Island University.

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