Growth cheers Sacramento-area bankers despite low interest rates

02/01/2013 12:00 AM

01/31/2013 11:04 PM

California's economy is gaining traction, the loan environment is improving and consumers are loosening their grips on their wallets.

But bankers in the Sacramento region are a bit grumpy. While they're happy to see the recession in the rearview mirror, many banking executives bemoan low interest rates that make profit building an uphill slog.

"We continued to experience strong growth in new accounts and deposits during 2012, but record-low interest rates have made it challenging to invest the funds profitably," said Thomas Meuser, chairman and CEO of El Dorado Savings Bank.

Even so, the consistently profitable, Placerville-based bank reported net income of $9 million in 2012, down from $10.2 million in 2011. Fourth quarter net income was $2.8 million, compared with a profit of $3.3 million in the last quarter of 2011.

The bank operates 32 branches in California and three in Nevada.

Other bank results in the most recent quarter include:

Sacramento-based River City Bank fourth quarter net income of $3.3 million, or $2.35 per share, up from $2.6 million, or $1.79 a share, in 2011.

Full-year profits totaled $11.6 million, or $8.09 a share, up from $10.6 million, or $7.37 a share, in the year-ago period.

"Though the national economy has shown some signs of improvement, the Sacramento market remains sluggish with continued high levels of unemployment," said Steve Fleming, president and CEO. "Despite this difficult economic environment, we are pleased to report that 2012 was the second most profitable year in the history of the bank."

Auburn-based Community 1st Bank, which also has a Roseville branch, reported net income of $831,000 for 2012, a sharp improvement over a loss of $2.5 million in 2011.

The bank pointed to a significant year-over-year reduction in its provision for loan losses – $780,000 last year compared with $2.6 million in 2011. The bank said it had reduced non-performing loans by 67 percent over the course of a year.

Dixon-based First Northern Community Bancorp, holding company for First Northern Bank, amassed net income of $4.6 million in 2012, a 70 percent gain over $2.7 million in 2011.

"Progress was made across all business lines" last year, said Louise Walker, president and CEO.

Fresno-based Central Valley Community Bancorp, parent of Central Valley Community Bank, reported net income of $7.5 million, or 75 cents a share, in 2012. That was up from $6.4 million, or 63 cents a share, in 2011.

Founded in 1979, the bank has 17 branches, including one in Sacramento.

Despite a year-over-year profit drop-off in the fourth quarter, Redding-based Bank of Commerce Holdings, parent of Roseville Bank of Commerce, had a 2012 profit of $6.5 million, or 41 cents a share. That was up 4 percent from 2011.

Folsom-based Sierra Vista Bank lost $485,000, or 20 cents a share, for 2012. In 2011, net income was $159,000, or 8 cents a share.

Sierra Vista could not rally back from a 2012 first quarter loss of $697,000 driven by an $810,000 provision for loan losses that included $600,000 for two restructured loans to one borrower.

Sierra Vista has branches in Folsom and Cameron Park.

Yuba City-based Bank of Feather River had net income of $541,000 in 2012, with its pretax income of $864,000 more than doubling the bank's 2011 total.

In 2012, the bank said, total assets grew 9 percent to $56 million, with loans growing 2 percent to $42 million.


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