Nearly three quarters of Florida's banks and thrifts were profitable during the first quarter, which was quite an improvement, while the weakest players continued to be snapped up by stronger institutions.
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Nearly three out of four Florida's banks were profitable during the first quarter, which was a vast improvement from the fourth quarter, when nearly half lost money. Of course, Florida still has its share of troubled banks, with 24 undercapitalized institutions as of March 31, according to data provided by Thomson Reuters Bank Insight, not including Security Bank, NA of North Lauderdale, which failed on May 4, and was purchased from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. by Branesco USA of Coral Gables, Fla. Please see TheStreet'sBank Watch List for a full listing of all the banks and thrifts across the country that were undercapitalized, per normal regulatory guidelines, as of March 31. One of the larger banks on last quarter's Bank Watch List was Vision Bank of Panama City, which was held by Park National Corp. ( PRK)of Newark, Ohio. Park National sold Vision Bank to Home BancShares ( HOMB) of Conway, Ark., for $27.9 million on February 16. The deal was a sweet one for Home BancShares, which picked up 17 branches in Baldwin County, Ala., and in the Florida Panhandle, while not acquiring Vision Bank's nonperforming loans or its repossessed real estate. Deposit gathering in Florida is dominated by the big national players, including Bank of America ( BAC), with a first-place 19% deposit market share as of June 30, 2011, according to the most recent FDIC data. Wells Fargo ( WFC) is in second place, with a 16% deposit market share in the Sunshine State, followed by SunTrust ( STI), with a 10% market share. But smaller players are looking for continued Florida expansion. Home BancShares chairman John Allison said during the company's first-quarter earnings call that "we're looking somewhere in the Naples market to try to build some more base there for our Keys operation," and that the company "would like to do something in and around Orlando, and we would certainly continue to build in the Panhandle." During the call, Home BancShares chief lending officer Kevin Hester said "we're optimistic, especially in Florida," where the bank's loan "pipeline is improving." Since the Bank Watch List is based solely on capital ratios, we take a different approach on our quarterly coverage of banks in key states, by looking at overall credit quality to identify troubled institutions.