Hancock 4Q profit down, but beats forecasts

Published 3:37 pm Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gulf Coast banker Hancock Holding Co., which has a pending acquisition of one of its major rivals, posted a 46 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit, but still handily beat Wall Street forecasts, the company reported Tuesday.

For the October-through-December period, Hancock earned $17 million, or 46 cents per share, compared with year-ago earnings in the fourth quarter of $31.8 million, or 89 cents per share. Without expenses tied to the acquisition of Peoples First Community Bank, the latest profit would have been a 27.9 percent increase from a year ago, Hancock said.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, had forecast per-share earnings of 40 cents for the latest quarter.

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On Dec. 22, Hancock announced the acquisition of New Orleans-based Whitney Holding Corp. in a stock-for-stock deal valued at about $1.5 billion. The company plans to close the deal during the second quarter. The Whitney Bank name will be kept in Louisiana and Texas.

Hancock said fourth-quarter earnings — minus acquisition expenses for Peoples — were boosted by a wider net interest margin and a $4.9 million cut, or 29.9 percent, to $11.4 million in its provision for loan losses.

Net chargeoffs fell 29.1 percent, or $4 million from the third quarter of 2010. Nonperforming assets as a percentage of loans and foreclosed assets dropped to 3.17 percent from 3.55 percent in the third quarter, but were still up from 1.97 percent at the end of 2009, Hancock said.

Hancock had an average of $4.95 billion in total loans during the fourth quarter, a 13.2 percent increase from 2009’s fourth quarter, but down 0.5 percent from the third quarter of 2010. The quarter-to-quarter drop was due to less loan demand in the Gulf Coast region, Hancock said.

For 2010, Hancock earned $52.2 million, or $1.40 per share, down from 2009 earnings of $74.8 million, or $2.26 per share.

The results were released after financial markets closed. In Tuesday trading, Hancock shares were unchanged at $33.66, but rose 33 cents, or almost 1 percent, to $33.99 in after-hours trading. The shares have traded in a 52-week range of $26.82 to $45.49.