CHARLESTON, S.C., Jan. 24, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- First Financial Holdings, Inc. ("First Financial") (Nasdaq:FFCH), the holding company for First Federal Bank ("First Federal"), announced today net income available to common shareholders of $6.8 million for the three months ended December 31, 2012, compared with $5.7 million for the three months ended September 30, 2012 and $14.6 million for the three months ended December 31, 2011. Diluted net income per common share was $0.41 for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, compared with $0.34 for the prior quarter and $0.88 for the same quarter last year. The quarter ended December 31, 2011 included a $12.7 million after-tax gain from a bulk loan sale of certain performing loans and classified assets. For the year ended December 31, 2012, net income available to common shareholders was $24.9 million, compared with a net loss of $(30.6) million for the same period of 2011. Diluted net income per common share from continuing operations was $1.51 for 2012, compared with a net loss of $(1.64) for 2011. "The fourth quarter continued First Financial's progress to produce solid operating trends in the core franchise and stable credit quality," said R. Wayne Hall, president and chief executive officer of First Financial and First Federal. "We have made consistent progress over the year to grow fee income, leverage our mortgage banking team, and expand our net interest margin. Our improvement in net interest income was driven by the acquisitions and strategic initiatives completed during 2012, and margin expansion was due in large part to continued credit improvement from our acquired loan portfolios. We are pleased with the earnings momentum we are building and the potential to improve performance and enhance shareholder value." Highlights for the Quarter
- Net interest margin increased 34 basis points over the September 30, 2012 quarter to 4.69% for the December 31, 2012 quarter as a result of additional income on a Cape Fear loan pool. Net interest margin for the current quarter without the impact of the additional income was 4.15%.
- Net charge-offs totaled $6.3 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, compared with $7.0 million for the prior quarter, while the provision for loan losses was $4.2 million and $4.5 million for the quarters ended December 31, 2012 and September 30, 2012, respectively.
- Noninterest income for the quarter ended December 31, 2012 totaled $16.2 million, or an 11.2% increase over the prior quarter. The increase was driven by improvements in fee income and higher mortgage banking volumes.
- First Financial remains well capitalized at December 31, 2012 with total risk-based capital of 16.16%, Tier 1 risk-based capital of 14.89%, and Tier 1 leverage capital of 10.54%. The tangible common equity to tangible common assets ratio increased to 7.07% at quarter end, compared with 6.77% at September 30, 2012.