First Republic Bank ( FRC) of San Francisco grew its commercial and industrial loan portfolio by 12.5% during the fourth quarter, to $1.7 billion. First Republic was acquired by Bank of America ( BAC) as part of the purchase of Merrill Lynch in January 2009, and then sold in July 2010 to an investor group that included Colony Financial ( CLNY) and General Atlantic LLC and was led by First Republic's original management team. First Republic completed a public offering in December of 2010. Usdin said that the bank "continues to generate impressive overall loan growth (up 22% in 2011) led by jumbo mortgages; a trend we expect to continue into 2012," and that "commercial loan growth has also been a strong contributor, as FRC continues to make inroads with private banking clients' employers (law firms, schools, etc.)." Since the "first quarter is typically FRC's weakest of the year," Usdin expects "a slower growth rate near-term," but also expects "loan growth in the mid-teens in 2012 as the company continues to take share." Jefferies analyst Casey Haire has a "Hold" rating on First Republic, with a price target of $32, and estimates the bank will earn $2.75 a share in 2012 and again in 2013.
First Republic Bank's shares returned 5% year-to-date through Wednesday's close at $32.03, following a 5% return in 2011. Interested in more on First Republic Bank? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.