First Financial Bank reports higher second quarter earnings

2013-07-30T09:45:00Z 2013-07-30T16:10:07Z First Financial Bank reports higher second quarter earningsJoseph S. Pete, (219) 933-3316

First Financial Bancorp, the holding company for First Financial Bank, reported earnings of $0.27 a share in the second quarter.

The Cincinnati-based bank has a large presence in Northwest Indiana. First Financial has 10 branches in Hammond, Highland, Schererville, Crown Point and St. John.

First Financial reported net income of $15.8 million in the second quarter, up from $13.8 million in the first quarter.

"Adjusting for the effects of expenses related to our efficiency initiative and other items incurred during the quarter, net income increased $2.1 million, or 13.8 percent, compared to the linked quarter, driven primarily by a rebound in fee revenue which more than offset the modest decline in net interest income," said Claude Davis, president and chief executive officer.

Profits have dipped since last year. Fist Financial reported earnings of $17.8 million, or $0.30 per diluted common share, in the second quarter of 2012.

The bank's overall income however rose 4.7 percent from the first quarter of this year to $26.4 million in the second quarter.

Specialty finance, commercial real estate and commercial and industrial loans all performed strongly, the bank reported. The construction and residential mortgage businesses also made solid contributions.

Quarterly earnings were reduced by $5.2 million because of pension settlement charges, real estate expenses associated with the closing and consolidation of banking centers, and employee benefit expenses resulting from staffing reductions.

The bank has been trying to get more efficient, with the aim of saving $17.1 million a year. First Financial cut noninterest expenses by $900,000 during the second quarter and has achieved savings of $15 million a year so far.

Nonperforming loans declined by $2.3 million during the quarter. The number of loans that soured dropped from 2.38 percent in the first quarter to 2.22 percent in the second quarter.

"This marks the third consecutive quarter that our growth in uncovered loans has outpaced the decline in the covered loan portfolio," Davis said. "Total loans increased $67.8 million, or 6.9 percent on an annualized basis, which is a respectable achievement in its own right. Almost all lending areas of the company contributed to the quarterly growth led by strong performance in our specialty finance and commercial real estate portfolios."

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