Bear State 4Q profits jump 85%, new year begins with executive change

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 300 views 

Bear State Financial Inc. on Thursday reported that profits nearly doubled in the fourth quarter as a fresh face takes the helm as CEO of the growth-oriented Arkansas community banking concern.

For the period ended Dec. 31, 2016, Bear State reported earnings of $4.8 million, or 13 cents per share, up 85% from $2.6 million, or seven cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2015. For the full year of 2016, net income rose $17.5 million, or 46 cents per share, up 65% from $10.6 million, or 30 cents a share, for the full year of 2015.

In fiscal 2016, the fast-growing Little Rock bank integrated Metropolitan National Bank of Springfield, Mo., into its operations, company officials said. The Arkansas community bank, which now has assets of $2.05 billion, also consolidated seven banking locations, or 13% of its operations in Arkansas, Southwest Missouri and Southeast Oklahoma

“The benefits of these operational and organizational efficiencies began to be realized in the second quarter of 2016 as evidenced by the improvement in the Company’s core efficiency ratio to 63% in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to 67% in the fourth quarter of 2015,” Bear State noted in a news release. “Revenue from the profit on sale of mortgage loans increased 56% for the full year of 2016 compared to the full year of 2015 which also contributed to the improvement in the core efficiency ratio.”

On Wednesday, Bear State made a surprise announcement that its board of director’s had named 35-year old Matt Machen as the community bank’s president and CEO, replacing Mark McFatridge who resigned on Saturday (Jan. 14).

Machen formerly served as president of Bear State Bank under McFatridge, but will now take over that role and the CEO’s position for the bank holding company and its operating subsidiary of the same name. Machen joined Bear State Bank following a $46.3 million recapitalization of the former First Federal Bank of Harrison in 2011 by Bear State Financial Holdings.

“Matt combines strong financial services experience and knowledge of the depth of our management team with a vision for the Company’s future that will be a critical part of our growth and success moving forward,” said Bear State Chairman Rick Massey.

Bear State officials said McFatridge, a board director and former CEO of Metropolitan Bank, only informed the bank and its board of directors of his resignation as president and CEO four days. Bear State offered no reason for McFatridge’s decision to step down after serving in the role for less than 16 months.

Under the new CEO, Bear State Bank now operates 48 branches and three loan production offices throughout its operational footprint in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

Following are other financial highlights of Bear State’s fourth quarter.
• Total loans were $1.56 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016, an increase of $97.7 million, or 7% compared to the same period a year ago.

• Bear State’s assets rose 7% to $2.05 billion for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to $1.92 billion a year ago. Total deposits were $1.64 billion on Dec. 31, a 2% increase compared to $1.61 billion in 2015.

• Total stockholders’ equity was $233 million at Dec. 31, a 5% increase from $223 million in 2015. Book value per common share was $6.21 at the end of the fourth quarter, a 6% increase from $5.87 a year ago.

• Net interest income for the fourth quarter of 2016 was $17.1 million compared to $17.7 million for the same period in 2015.

At Thursday’s closing bell, Bear State’s thinly traded stock were down six cents at $10 per share on the Nasdaq stock exchange. Nearly 68% of the Arkansas banking holding company’s shares are held by company insiders, according to Thomson Reuters.