Correction: Simmons First 1Q Profit Down 8 Percent to $5.9M

(Correction: This item has been corrected from its previous version. See note at the end of this story for details.)

Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff on Thursday reported first-quarter net income of $5.9 million, down 8 percent from the same quarter last year.

The financial holding company (Nasdaq: SFNC) said earnings per share fell to 36 cents from 37 cents at the same time last year. The company said that excluding $146,000 in after-tax merger-related expenses, "core" first-quarter net income reached $6.1 million and 37 cents per share, in line with analyst expectations.

"Considering interest rates continue at historical lows and due to the seasonality that we experience in the first quarter each year, we were pleased with our overall earnings performance," J. Thomas May, chairman and CEO, said in a news release.

"More so, we were pleased with the positive trends in our balance sheet, as reflected in our normalized organic loan growth of approximately 4 percent, which enabled us to produce a net interest margin of 4.01 percent. The organic loan growth, coupled with strong asset quality, bodes well for the balance of the year," he said.

The merger-related expenses are associated with Simmons' FDIC-assisted acquisitions of Truman Bank of St. Louis and Excel Bank in Sedalia, Mo.

At the company's annual meeting on Tuesday, May and George Makris, who will take over as CEO when May retires on Dec. 31, signaled the need for more acquisitions to drive company growth. Makris said that the drying up of FDIC-assisted deals for failing banks means that Simmons is more actively seeking conventional acquisitions that are good fits.

On Thursday, Simmons reported total loans of $1.8 billion as of March 31, up by $176.6 million or 10.7 percent from the same time last year.

"This was the second consecutive quarter of organic loan growth," May said. "While still not enough to call a trend, we believe it is very positive in that the growth is coming throughout our markets in Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri. Needless to say, the economy remains in a slow recovery, which makes this growth even more significant."

Net interest income for the quarter was $30.1 million, up 8.5 percent from the same time last year.

(Correction: The first two paragraphs in the previous version of this story incorrectly used fourth-quarter 2012 earnings results, not first-quarter 2012 results, as comparisons to Simmons' first-quarter 2013 earnings results. The numbers in the story and the story headline have been corrected. You can see Simmons' complete first-quarter earnings news release and balance sheet here.)