FirstMerit Corporation (FMER)

Q2 2010 Earnings Call

July 27, 2010 02:00 pm ET

Executives

Tom O’Malley - Investor Relations Office

Paul Greig - Chairman & CEO

Bill Richgels - EVP & CCO

Terry Bichsel - EVP & CFO

Analysts

Scott Siefers - Sandler O'Neill

Steven Alexopoulos - JPMorgan

Jon Arfstrom - RBC Capital Markets

Tony Davis - Stifel Nicolaus

John Rodis - Howe Barnes

Bryce Rowe - Robert W. Baird

Presentation

Operator

Good afternoon. My name is Maria and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to FirstMerit Corporation’s second quarter earnings conference call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speaker’s remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator instructions) Thank you. Mr. O’Malley, you may begin your conference.

Tom O'Malley

Thank you, Maria. Good afternoon and welcome to FirstMerit’s second quarter 2010 earnings call. Joining me today are Paul Greig, our Chief Executive Officer; Terry Bichsel, our Chief Financial Officer; William Richgels, our Chief Credit Officer; and Mark DuHamel, our Treasurer and Director of Corporate Development. Following our prepared remarks, we going to be happy to take your questions, but before we get started, I would like to mention that our press release we issued this morning announcing our financial results for the quarter is available on our website at www.firstmerit.com under the Investor Relations section.

I would like to remind you that our comments today may contain forward-looking statements that are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause the company’s actual future results to materially differ from those discussed. Please refer to the forward-looking statement disclosure contained in the second quarter 2010 earnings release, as well as our SEC filings for a full discussion of the company’s risk factors.

Now I would like to introduce Paul Greig, FirstMerit’s Chief Executive Officer. Paul?

Paul Greig

Thank you Tom and good afternoon everyone. I am pleased to report very solid performance in the second quarter of 2010. our 45th consecutive profitable quarter. This quarter was significant to us because it reflected the transformation of our franchise. We profitably expanded into an important new market, we executed a seamless integration of new customers and laid a solid foundation from which we will pursue organic and acquisition-oriented growth strategies to further enhance shareholder value.

For the second quarter of 2010, FirstMerit reported earnings of $0.32 per share compared with $0.21 per share last quarter and $0.13 per share for the year ago quarter. Included in these numbers are $4.4 million or $0.03 of one-time costs related to the acquisitions. A strong showing is a result of many positive accomplishments. I’ll go into detail on some of these as will Bill Richgels, our Chief Credit Officer and Terry Bichsel, our CFO.

Before we do, let me give you a quick overview of some of the many high points for us this past quarter. Our net income for the quarter was $31.5 million, compared with $18.8 million for the first quarter of 2010 and $15.5 million for the second quarter a year ago. Revenues grew by $24 million or 16% over the previous quarter and by $33 million or 24% over the year ago quarter.

Our net interest margin expanded 32 basis points over the first quarter from 3.72% to 4.04%. Disciplined expense control is a critical element of our efficiency ratio and I’m pleased to report our continued efforts are paying off. Our second quarter efficiency ratio of 61.3% compares very favorably to the prior quarter number of 63.6% and our year ago ratio of 65.3%. From an asset quality standpoint, net charge-offs at $20.3 million or 1.18% of the average loans improved against the previous quarter’s $22.8 million or 1.36%. Nonperforming assets declined $14 million or 11% from March 31.

Criticized and classified loans drop $49 million or 12%. I am also pleased with the trend in early stage delinquencies which has now declined for three consecutive quarters versus the prior year quarter. Shareholder equity was $1.5 billion at June 30, up from $1.2 billion at March 31 and $1 billion, the year prior year quarter end.

Our tangible common equity ratio at June 30 is a solid 7.34%. We supported our Chicago expansion with a successful capital raise in May that added $320 million of common equity to our balance sheet. Internal capital generation in the quarter further strengthened our capital position and fortified the balance sheet.

Lastly, we are very excited about the Chicago acquisition of Midwest Bank and Trust. This was a very competitive bidding process that we believe the franchise is crucial from a strategic and financial perspective to execute our growth strategy. We now are in possession to fully take advantage of a growing market in the midst of market disruption. This truly provides long term organic growth opportunities, which we are well positioned to capitalize on.

I am also satisfied with the credit results we are showing in the second quarter. The company’s focus on disciplined underwriting and portfolio management have been instrumental in our profitability and invaluable to our shareholder base. We will remain committed to our credit discipline and I am confident that our credit metrics will benefit from our high standards implemented and reinforce back in 2006.

While the pace of economic recovery remains muted, we are positioned to continue serving our customer base. Regarding the current state of our Northeast Ohio and Chicago economies, the anecdotal evidence I am getting from our customer base is that business conditions continue to improve. While we are not seeing signs of growth characteristic of a normal recovery, there are signs of economic improvement in most industries. This trend also supported by the Cleveland and Chicago FED Beige Books, which both characterize a recovering and improving economy for their last six reports stating back to the fall of 2009.

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