Mercantile Bank Q4 2010 Earnings Call Transcript

Mercantile Bank (MBWM)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 18, 2011 10:00 am ET

Executives

Robert Kaminski - Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President, Secretary, President of Mercantile Bank of Michigan, Chief Operating Officer Mercantile Bank of Michigan and Secretary of Mercantile Bank of West Michigan

Charles Christmas - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer, Senior Vice President, Treasurer, Chief Financial Officer of the Bank, Senior Vice President of Bank and Treasurer of Bank

Michael Price - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President, Chairman of Mercantile Bank of Michigan and Chief Executive Officer of Mercantile Bank of Michigan

Analysts

Stephen Geyen - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc.

Eileen Rooney - Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc.

David Long - Raymond James & Associates

Presentation

Operator

Welcome to the Mercantile Corporation Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions].

Before we begin today's call, we like to remind everyone that this call may involve certain forward-looking statements such as projections of revenue, earnings and capital structure, as well as statements on the plans and objectives of the company or its management; statements on economic performance and statements regarding underlying assumptions of the company's business. The company's actual results could differ materially from any forward-looking statements made today due to important factors described in the company's latest Securities and Exchange Commission filings. This company assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements made during this call. If anyone does not already have a copy of the press release issued by Mercantile today, you can access it at the company's website, www.mercbank.com.

On the conference today from Mercantile Bank Corporation, we have Mike Price, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer; Bob Kaminski, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer; and Chuck Christmas, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. We will begin the call with management prepared remarks and then open the call up to questions.

At this point, I would like to turn the call over to Mr. Price. Please begin, sir.

Michael Price

Thank you, and good morning, everyone, and welcome. Fourth quarter of 2010 demonstrated many of the same attributes and trends that the third quarter exhibited. The decline of the volume of non-performing assets, which started with a large reduction during last quarter, continued. The net interest spread, which was 2.40% two years ago, increased to 3.36% and appears to be poised to remain steady for 2011. Non-bad debt overhead expense remains well-controlled, and overall, we appear to be well-poised to take advantage of the modest economic recovery we are experiencing.

We continue to be very conservative in writing down collateral values and in treatment of problem loans. This causes to post a quarterly loss. However, the pretax loss was much improved from the previous quarter, and all indications are that our strategy of grinding through this very deep recession, with our focus on aggressive problem loan resolution and maintaining our well-capitalized status, is starting to pay off.

As usual, Chuck Christmas will cover the financials, and then we'll have Bob Kaminski cover the dynamics of our loan portfolio. We will all remain available for questions at the end of the presentation.

At this time, I'll turn it over to Chuck.

Charles Christmas

Thanks, Mike, and good morning, everybody. This morning, we announced that we recorded a net loss of $5.3 million during the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to a net loss of $36.4 million during the fourth quarter of 2009 and a net loss of $14.6 million for all of 2010 compared to a net loss of $52.9 million during all of 2009.

On a pretax basis, which we believe provides a more accurate comparison of our operating results given a change in our tax position, our net loss during the fourth quarter of 2010 was $3 million compared to a net loss of $20.7 million during the fourth quarter of last year. And our net loss for all of 2010 was $13.4 million compared to a net loss of $46.6 million for all of 2009.

While we are, of course, disappointed anytime we have to report a net loss, we are encouraged with the significant improvement in our operating results, as well as the continued improvement in many key areas of our financial condition and performance. Our financial performance during 2010, like that throughout 2009 and 2008, was impacted by a significant provision expense and bad debt cost. Unfortunately, continued state, regional and national economic struggles have negatively impacted some of our borrowers' cash flows and underlying collateral values, leading to increased non-performing assets, higher loan charge-offs and increased credit risk within our loan portfolio when compared to historical norms.

From the time we sensed economic weakness over two years ago, we have been working with our borrowers to develop constructive dialogue, which has strengthened our relationships and enhanced our ability to resolve complex issues. With the environment for the banking industry likely to remain stressed until economic conditions improve, credit quality will continue to be our major concern. We will be relentlessly vigilant in identification and administration of problem assets. Unfortunately, provision expense, as well as non-performing asset administration and resolution costs will likely remain higher than historical norms, dampening future earnings performance.

But during the fourth quarter of 2010, we saw a continuation of a very positive trend we reported for the first three quarters of 2010 and throughout most of 2009 as well, and I'd like to touch on some of them. Despite a reduction in our total earning assets, an improved net interest margin has provided substantial support to net interest income. Net interest income during the fourth quarter of 2010 was $200,000 or 1% higher than the fourth quarter of 2009. And during all of 2010, our net interest income was $5 million or 10% higher than during all of 2009.

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