Fulton Financial (FULT)

Q4 2010 Earnings Call

January 19, 2011 10:00 am ET


E. Wenger - President, Chief Operating Officer, Director, Ex-officio Member of Trust Committee, Ex-officio Member of Executive Committee, Ex-officio Member of Human Resources Committee and Ex-officio Member of Risk Management Committee

Charles Nugent - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Executive Vice President

R. Smith - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Member of Executive Committee, Member of Risk Management Committee and Member of Trust Committee

Laura Wakeley - Media Contact


Eric Beardsley - Barclays Capital

Frank Schiraldi - Sandler O’Neill

Craig Siegenthaler - Crédit Suisse AG

Collyn Gilbert - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc.

Kyle Kavanaugh - Palisade Capital

Richard Weiss - Janney Montgomery Scott LLC

Matthew Clark - Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc.

Bob Ramsey - FBR Capital Markets & Co.



Good day, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Fulton Financial Corporation Fourth Quarter and Year End 2010 Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to introduce your host for today's conference, Laura Wakeley, Senior Vice President.

Laura Wakeley

Good morning, and thank you for joining us for Fulton Financial's conference call and webcast to discuss our earnings for the fourth quarter and year end 2010. Your actual host for today's conference call is Scott Smith. And Scott is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fulton Financial Corporation. Joining Scott are Phil Wenger, President and Chief Operating Officer; and Charlie Nugent, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

Our comments today will refer to the financial information included with our earnings announcement, which were released at 4:30 yesterday afternoon. These documents can be found on our website at www.fult.com by clicking on Investors Relations and then on News. On this call, representatives of Fulton may make forward-looking statements with respect to Fulton's financial condition, results of operations and business. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond Fulton's control and difficult to predict and could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or forecasted in the forward-looking statements. Fulton undertakes obligation other than required by law to update or revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. In our earnings release, we've included our safe harbor statement on forward-looking statements. We refer you to this statement in the earnings release and the statement is incorporated into this presentation. For a more complete discussion of risks and uncertainties affecting Fulton, please see the sections entitled Risk Factors and Management Discussion and Analysis of financial condition and results of operations set forth in Fulton's filings with the SEC. Now, I'd like to turn the call over to your host, Scott Smith.

R. Smith

Thanks, Laura, and good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us. After Phil, Charlie and I conclude our prepared remarks, we'll be happy to respond to your questions. For the fourth quarter, we reported diluted net income per share of $0.16, even with the third quarter. For all of 2010, we reported diluted net income per share of $0.59, up 90% over the $0.31 we reported in 2009. Before addressing the fourth quarter specifically, I would like to share a few comments about the past year.

2010 was a year of significant improvement in our financial performance. It was also a year of continuous challenges, as well as important opportunities. The markets responded positively to our common stock offering in the spring, enabling us to repay our TARP funds in full and repurchase the treasury warrants. Our recognition by Forbes as one of America's Most Trustworthy Companies also created opportunities to leverage that designation throughout our markets. Continued business and consumer deleveraging enabled us to grow our low-cost core deposit base, resulting in an expansion of our net interest margin. But as we all know, growth in the asset side of the balance sheet was not brisk. The slow pace of economic activity was not conducive to meaningful earning asset growth. New loans originated in 2010 were largely offset by normal run-offs, higher charge-offs and planned reduction in our construction book. Net interest income ended the year with an increase despite legislative headwinds in overdraft fees. We experienced good growth in mortgage banking income for the year-over-year as a result of continued strong refinancing activity and improved spreads. Overall expenses were well-controlled and lower for the year.

The debt capital summary of the 2010 as a backdrop, let's look more specifically at the fourth quarter performance. Looking first at credit, we saw a decrease in our nonperforming assets and overall delinquency link quarter, which we find encouraging. However, we also saw increase in charge-offs. Credit costs, as we have indicated in prior calls, remain elevated. The provision with flat linked quarter as we are comfortable with our overall loan loss provision. With what is currently being predicted to be a slow rebound in economic activity, we believe credit costs will remain at higher levels than we had experienced before the financial crisis. We expect growth in earning assets and net interest income to be a challenge until we see more rapid economic expansion. Adding to this challenge will be increased price competition for quality new credit opportunities as all banks aggressively seek to grow earning assets. Phil will give you more color on credit in a few minutes.

As the economy picks up steam, we believe we are positioned well to meet the credit needs of our customers. Aided by industry trends, promotional efforts and growing awareness of our relationship banking strategy and brand, core deposit growth has been good and liquidity is strong. In the fourth quarter, we continued to see some margin pick up, partially as a result of certificate or deposit repricing. However, our pace of margin expansion was tempered somewhat by increased pressure on earning asset yields. Noninterest income, while up for the year, was down for the quarter. Mortgage banking income, an area of very strong performance in the third quarter, slowed somewhat toward the end of the year. While noninterest income growth will continue to face challenges as a result of current and future regulatory changes, a great deal of time and energy is being invested by our people to meet those challenges. We are closely monitoring developments in the Durbin interchange amendment and the repeal of the proposition to pay interest on business accounts, while simultaneously exploring the pros and cons of a number of strategic options.

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