DAMARISCOTTA — The First Bancorp (Nasdaq: FNLC), parent company of First National Bank, today announced operating results for the three months ended March 31, 2018. Net income was $5.5 million, up $869,000 or 18.7% from the first three months of 2017. Earnings per common share on a fully diluted basis over the same period were up $0.08 to $0.51 per share, an increase of 18.6% from the prior year.
“I’m pleased to announce another quarter of record earnings for The First Bancorp” remarked Tony C. McKim, the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our core spread business remains strong, and increased net interest income resulting from growth in earning assets continues to drive our performance. In addition, several of our fee-based business lines enjoyed year-over-year revenue increases highlighted by First Advisors, the Bank’s trust and investment management division, which had revenue growth of 17.3% over the first quarter of 2017. We maintained the dividend at 24 cents per share in the first quarter and we continue to pay out a significant percentage of net income to our shareholders in the form of cash dividends.
“The strong growth on both sides of the balance sheet we experienced in 2017 continued into the first quarter of 2018,” noted President McKim. “Earning assets grew $30.6 million in the first three months of 2018 and are $102.8 million higher than a year ago. Total loans have increased $23.9 million or 2.0% year-to-date, and are up $98.3 million or 9.0% year-over-year. The investment portfolio is up $7.3 million or 1.3% year-to-date, and year-over-year the portfolio is up $7.6 million or 1.3%. On the funding side of the balance sheet, low-cost deposits are down $11.3 million or 1.6% since year end, in-line with our normal seasonal deposit flow pattern. Year-over-year low-cost deposits are up $7.5 million or 1.1%, building upon the exceptionally strong low-cost deposit growth we experienced in the first quarter of 2017.
“Net interest income on a tax-equivalent basis for the first three months of 2018 was up $500,000 or 4.0% from the same period in 2017,” President McKim continued, “with all of the increase attributable to growth in earning assets. This growth fully offset a year-over-year decline in our net interest margin from 3.05% in the first quarter of 2017 to 3.00% in the first quarter of 2018. The margin decrease is primarily attributable to higher funding costs. Non-interest income for the first three months of 2018 was up $289,000 or 10.2% from the first three months of 2017, led by revenue growth at First Advisors and net securities gains. Non-interest expense for the first three months of 2018 was $881,000 or 11.4% above the same period in 2017, primarily due to higher employee costs as we continue to invest in the people and technology to sustain growth. As expected, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“the TCJA”) resulted in a significant income tax expense savings from the prior year.
“Our credit quality metrics remain solid,” President McKim commented. “Non-performing assets stood at 0.83% of total assets as of March 31, 2018, above the 0.52% level of non-performing assets a year ago and down from 0.86% at year end. Past-due loans were 1.34% of total loans at March 31, 2018, down from 1.60% at December 31, 2017 and up from 0.96% at March 31, 2017. We provisioned $500,000 for loan losses in the first three months of 2018, level with the amount we provisioned in the first three months of 2017. The allowance for loan losses stood at 0.92% of total loans as of March 31, 2018, level with that reported as of December 31, 2017 and down slightly from 0.95% of total loans at March 31, 2017.”
“The impact of continued asset growth and strong earnings, coupled with the income tax savings from TCJA, is evident in our operating ratios,” observed Richard M. Elder, the Company’s Chief Financial Officer. “Our return on average assets was 1.21% and our return on average tangible common equity was 14.69% for the first three months of 2018, comparing favorably to the 1.07% and 12.92%, respectively, reported for the first three months of 2017. Our efficiency ratio on a tax equivalent basis stood at 53.75% for the first three months of 2018 compared to 50.17% for the first three months of 2017, the increase being attributable to increased operating expenses and a reduction in tax equivalent revenue from the Company’s tax exempt assets, as a result of TCJA.
“The First Bancorp’s stock closed at $27.98 per share on March 29, 2018,” Mr. Elder noted, up from $27.25 a year ago and up from our year-end close at $27.23 per share. “With dividends reinvested, our 3-month total return was 3.65%, and total return over a three year period was 81.25%, outperforming the broad market during these periods, as measured by the S&P 500 which had a total return with dividends reinvested of -0.76% and 35.88% respectively, as well the Russell 2000, in which we are included, with total returns of -0.08% and 27.26% respectively. Our stock has also outperformed the banking industry, where the 3-month total return was 1.42% and 3-year total return was 49.93% for the KBW Regional Bank Index, and total returns of 2.17% and 60.63% over the same periods for the Nasdaq Bank Index.”
“As noted above, the Board of Directors maintained the quarterly dividend at 24 cents per share in the first quarter of 2018,” President McKim commented. “Based on the March 29, 2018 closing price of $27.98 per share, our annualized dividend yield is a healthy 3.43%. In managing capital, we continue to balance the dividend payout level with retaining sufficient earnings to remain well capitalized and support future asset growth while remaining mindful that the dividend continues to be one of the major reasons people invest in our stock.
“I’m pleased with our start to 2018,” President McKim concluded. “Continued healthy growth on both sides of the balance sheet led to increased net interest income, and fee-based business lines are growing. I couldn’t be more proud of the tremendous team of people we have at First National Bank. Ultimately it is their skill and dedication that generates these record results and contributes to our ongoing success.”
Forward-Looking and Cautionary Statements
Except for the historical information and discussions contained herein, statements contained in this release may constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements involve a number of risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results and events to differ materially, as discussed in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
For more information, please contact Richard M. Elder, The First Bancorp’s Treasurer & Chief Financial Officer, at 207.563.3195.