Fulton Financial's CEO Discusses Q3 2011 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Fulton Financial (FULT)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 19, 2011 10:00 am ET

Executives

R. Scott Smith - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Member of Executive Committee and Ex-officio Member of Risk Management Committee

Charles J. Nugent - Chief Financial Officer and Senior Executive Vice President

Laura Wakeley - Media Contact

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

Analysts

Craig Siegenthaler - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Frank Schiraldi - Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division

Mac Hodgson - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Thomas Frick - FBR Capital Markets & Co., Research Division

Casey Haire - Jefferies & Company, Inc., Research Division

Matthew C. Schultheis - Boenning and Scattergood, Inc., Research Division

Mike I. Shafir - Sterne Agee & Leach Inc., Research Division

Richard D. Weiss - Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, Research Division

Collyn Bement Gilbert - Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Fulton Financial Third Quarter Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference call is being recorded. And now I'll turn the conference over to Laura Wakeley, Senior Vice President. Please begin.

Laura Wakeley

Good morning, and thank you for joining us for Fulton Financial Corporation's conference call and webcast to discuss our earnings for the third quarter of 2011. Your host for today's conference call is Scott Smith. Scott is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fulton Financial. Joining him 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 we released at 4:30 yesterday afternoon. These documents can be found on our website at fult.com by clicking on Investor 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 no 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 have included our Safe Harbor statement on forward-looking statements. We refer you to that statement and incorporate that statement into this presentation. For a more complete discussion of certain risks and uncertainties affecting Fulton, please see the sections entitled Risk Factors and Management's 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. Scott Smith

Thank you, Laura, and good morning, everyone. It's good to have you with us. After some introductory remarks, I will turn the call over to Phil Wenger and Charlie Nugent to discuss credit and financial details.

Our earnings continue to improve in the third quarter. We reported diluted net income of $0.20 per share, an increase of 11% over the second quarter and a 25% increase over the third quarter of last year. The number of items and trends we reviewed last time contributed to our solid results again this quarter. These include our improved ROA, strong noninterest income for mortgage sale gains, a further decrease in the provision for credit losses and a reduction in funding costs due to our stable core deposit base. We'll discuss each of these in more detail.

In our last call, I said that during this extended period of slow economic activity, we are focused on managing our assets effectively to generate increased earnings per share and not growing assets by taking undue risk. In the news release, you saw that we increased our return on average assets again this quarter by 6 basis points to 0.97%.

I also mentioned the importance of our return on equity last time. This quarter we saw improvement in both our returns on common and tangible common equity. Our capital position remains strong. We intend to deploy that capital profitably for the right opportunities at the right time. However, until we see stronger indications that the economy is rebounding and until those right opportunities present themselves, we will build capital through organically-generated retained earnings and deploy it prudently to support future organic growth and potential future dividend increases.

Residential mortgage sale gains contributed nicely to non-interest income again this quarter. The persistently low interest rate environment along with our excellent reputation as a mortgage lender in our markets has enabled us to maintain a steady level of both refinanced and purchased activity. Our reputation is also helpful as we seek to attract and hire additional mortgage originators throughout our footprint to help us grow our mortgage business.

You will also recall last quarter we talked about the traction we saw in our investment management and brokerage businesses. This quarter, those lines were negatively impacted by the recent market volatility and by a reduction in new brokerage account activity.

In the credit area, we were pleased to see a reduction in our provision for credit losses this quarter. In the past, we've used the word lumpy to characterize our return to stronger asset quality metrics over time. We believe that description is still appropriate, so we'll provide more credit detail in a few minutes.

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