3 of 4 Arkansas Bank Stocks Climb in Value During 2012

by George Waldon  on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 12:00 am  

Three of the state's four publicly traded lenders have ridden upward trending stock prices during 2012.

(Click here for an overview and list of the state's top stockholders.)

First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas Inc. of Harrison led the way with a whopping 117.7 percent increase in its per-share price, which climbed from $4.62 to $10.06.

During 2012, First Federal shares traded as high as $10.74 on Sept. 21 after falling as low as $4.30 on Jan. 9.

First Federal recorded a profit of $901,000 through the first six months of this year, which built on a second-quarter profit of $709,000. The company has not released its third-quarter results.

The positive performance marked a welcome departure from a $3.7 million loss for the first six months in 2011 that culminated in a $13.2 million loss for the year.

In 2011, Bear State Financial Holdings LLC stabilized First Federal's balance sheet with $40.3 million cash, amassed an 81.5 percent stake in the company, shed $16.5 million in TARP obligations and installed a new executive management team led by Dabbs Cavin.

Home BancShares Inc. of Conway saw its stock price grow 29 percent through Oct. 12, rising from $25.87 per share to $33.38.

Undergirding that is a string of record quarterly profits during the year: $14.5 million, $15.5 million and nearly $16.1 million.

The third-quarter earnings announcement prompted Johnny Allison, chairman and founder, to observe: "This was the most profitable quarter in the company's history, and it continues to be displayed through our reported improvements in our non-performing non-covered loans and assets and an improvement in our core efficiency."

Improved operational performance took the forefront as the FDIC-assisted transaction stream remained dry for the company since 2010.

Home BancShares did buy 17 Vision Bank locations in Alabama and Florida from Park National Corp. in February as part of deal that included $354 million in loans on $520 million in deposits.

Bank of the Ozarks Inc. of Little Rock and Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff returned to the acquisition trail this year.

Earlier this month, the company struck a conventional $27.3 million stock/cash combo deal to buy Genala Banc Inc. of Geneva, Ala., owner of the $170 million-asset Citizens Bank.

For the year, the value of BOZ shares grew by 10.3 percent, up from $29.52 to $32.57. The company largely posted comparable quarter-to-quarter profit growth during 2012.

However, net income of $56.4 million for the nine months ending Sept. 30 reflected a 33 percent drop compared with the same 2011 reporting period. Those results were distorted by an unusual gain of $36.6 million realized from three FDIC-assisted transactions.

Simmons expanded its Missouri holdings with FDIC-assisted purchases of Truman Bank of St. Louis in September and Excel Bank of Sedalia, Mo., in October. The Truman transaction closed at a $20.9 million discount for assets of $282 million, while the Excel deal was recorded at a $21 million discount for assets of $201 million.

Simmons shares declined 10 percent in value during 2012, sliding from $27.60 to $24.83. It was the lone publicly traded lender based in Arkansas to experience a decline for the year as of Oct. 12.

The company's 2012 earnings were up and down in year-to-year comparisons, with first-quarter profits up 25 percent, second-quarter profits down about 3 percent and third quarter down 6.8 percent.

This summer, George Makris Jr. was named to succeed Tommy May as CEO of Simmons with May's long-planned retirement approaching next year.

SNL Financial LC of Charlottesville, Va., recognized Bank of the Ozarks as the No. 1 top-performing regional lender, while the financial information firm ranked Home BancShares at No. 16.



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