GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (MO.Properties) – Mercantile Bank Corporation (NASDAQ: MBWM) (“Mercantile”) reported net income of $10.7 million, or $0.65 per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2020, compared with net income of $11.8 million, or $0.72 per diluted share, for the respective prior-year period. Proceeds from a bank owned life insurance claim and a gain on the sale of a former branch facility increased net income in the prior-year period by $1.8 million, or $0.11 per diluted share. Excluding the impacts of these transactions, diluted earnings per share increased $0.04, or approximately 7 percent, during the current-year first quarter compared to the prior-year first quarter.
“We are very pleased with our first quarter 2020 financial performance, which depicts the ongoing success of certain strategic initiatives,” said Robert B. Kaminski, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercantile. “Our robust financial results reflect solid growth in the commercial loan portfolio, increased fee income, managed overhead costs, and sound asset quality.”
First quarter highlights include:
Robust earnings and capital position
Solid growth in key fee income categories
Controlled overhead costs
Strong asset quality
Annualized net commercial loan growth of approximately 5 percent
Residential mortgage loan originations up nearly 200 percent compared to the respective 2019 period
Continued strength in commercial loan and residential loan pipelines
Total revenue, which consists of net interest income and noninterest income, was $36.9 million during the first quarter of 2020, compared to $37.3 million during the prior-year first quarter. Net interest income during the first quarter of 2020 was $30.3 million, down $0.3 million, or 1.1 percent, from the first quarter of 2019, reflecting a decreased net interest margin, which more than offset the positive impact of earning asset growth.
The net interest margin was 3.63 percent in the first quarter of 2020, compared to 3.88 percent in the first quarter of 2019. The yield on average earning assets was 4.54 percent during the first quarter of 2020, down from 4.89 percent during the prior-year first quarter primarily due to a decreased yield on commercial loans, which equaled 4.76 percent in the current-year first quarter compared to 5.32 percent in the respective 2019 period. The decreased yield on commercial loans primarily reflected reduced interest rates on variable-rate commercial loans resulting from the Federal Open Market Committee significantly lowering the targeted federal funds rate by 225 basis points during the second half of 2019 and first three months of 2020.
The negative impact of the decreased yield on commercial loans on the yield on average earning assets was partially mitigated by an improved yield on securities, which equaled 4.73 percent and 2.82 percent during the first quarters of 2020 and 2019, respectively. The increased yield on securities mainly reflected the recording of $1.8 million in accelerated discount accretion on called U.S. Government agency bonds as interest income during the first three months of 2020. No accelerated discount accretion was recorded during the first three months of 2019. The accelerated discount accretion recorded during the first quarter of 2020 positively impacted the net interest margin by 22 basis points. As part of Mercantile’s interest rate risk management program, U.S. Government agency bonds are periodically purchased at discounts during rising interest rate environments; if these bonds are called during decreasing interest rate environments, the remaining unaccreted discount amounts are immediately recognized as interest income. The cost of funds declined from 1.01 percent during the first quarter of 2019 to 0.91 percent during the current-year first quarter primarily due to lower rates paid on deposit accounts, reflecting the declining interest rate environment.
Mercantile recorded provision expense of $0.8 million and $0.9 million during the first quarters of 2020 and 2019, respectively. The provision expense recorded during the first quarter of 2020 was primarily comprised of an increased allocation related to the economic conditions environmental factor; in addition, the provision expense also reflected ongoing net loan growth. The provision expense recorded during the first three months of 2019 mainly reflected ongoing net loan growth.
Noninterest income was $6.6 million during both the first quarter of 2020 and the prior-year first quarter. Noninterest income during the first quarter of 2019 included a bank owned life insurance claim of $1.3 million and a gain on the sale of a former branch facility of $0.6 million. Excluding the impacts of these transactions, noninterest income increased $1.8 million, or 38.1 percent, during the current-year first quarter compared to the respective 2019 period. The improved level of noninterest income primarily reflected increased mortgage banking activity income stemming from the ongoing success of strategic initiatives that were designed to increase market presence and a decrease in residential mortgage loan interest rates, which spurred a significant increase in refinance activity. Increased service charges on accounts, payroll processing fees, and credit and debit card income also contributed to the higher level of noninterest income.
Noninterest expense totaled $22.9 million during the first quarter of 2020, up $1.1 million, or 5.1 percent, from the prior-year first quarter. The higher level of expense primarily resulted from increased salary costs, mainly reflecting higher residential mortgage loan originator commissions and employee merit pay increases. In addition, higher occupancy and furniture costs, mainly reflecting increased depreciation expense associated with an expansion of Mercantile’s main office, and data processing costs, primarily depicting growth in transaction volume and new product offerings, contributed to the increased level of noninterest expense.
Mr. Kaminski commented, “We are pleased to once again report increases in key noninterest income revenue streams, and we remain focused on meeting growth objectives in a cost conscious manner. The noteworthy increase in mortgage banking activity income reflects a substantial increase in refinance activity stemming from the decline in residential mortgage loan interest rates, an increase in the percentage of originated loans being sold, and the continuing success of various initiatives that were implemented to increase market share, including the hiring of proven mortgage loan originators in our markets.”
As of March 31, 2020, total assets were $3.66 billion, up $24.5 million, or 0.7 percent, from December 31, 2019. Total loans increased $44.9 million, or 1.6 percent, during the first three months of 2020, and $102 million, or 3.6 percent, during the twelve months ended March 31, 2020. As of March 31, 2020, unfunded commitments on commercial construction and development loans totaled approximately $77 million, which are expected to be largely funded over the next 12 to 18 months.
Ray Reitsma, President of Mercantile Bank of Michigan, noted, “We are pleased with the net commercial loan growth achieved during the first three months of 2020, and we remain committed to growing the portfolio in a disciplined manner with a continuing emphasis on sound underwriting and risk-based pricing. Based on our current loan pipeline, we believe we will fund additional commercial loans in future periods. While we continue to devote resources to identify and attract new client relationships and meet the typical credit needs of our existing customers, much of our attention has now been diverted to help customers work through the challenges they are confronted with as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to implementing commercial loan and retail loan payment deferral programs, we are actively participating in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.”
As of March 31, 2020, commercial and industrial loans and owner-occupied commercial real estate loans combined represented approximately 59 percent of total commercial loans, a level that has remained relatively consistent and in line with internal expectations.
Total deposits at March 31, 2020 were $2.65 billion, down $45.0 million, or 1.7 percent, from December 31, 2019. Brokered deposits and local deposits were down $32.5 million and $12.5 million, respectively, during the first three months of 2020. The decline in local deposits in large part reflects the maturity of certain certificates of deposit that were not renewed during the first quarter of 2020. Mercantile did not aggressively seek to renew these certificates of deposit, which were opened as part of a special time deposit campaign that was introduced mid-first quarter 2019 and ended in early April 2019, due to its excess liquidity position. Wholesale funds were $495 million, or approximately 16 percent of total funds, as of March 31, 2020, compared to $487 million, or approximately 15 percent of total funds, as of December 31, 2019.
Nonperforming assets at March 31, 2020, were $3.7 million, or 0.1 percent of total assets, compared to $2.7 million, or 0.1 percent of total assets, at December 31, 2019, and $4.5 million, or 0.1 percent of total assets, at March 31, 2019. The level of past due loans remains nominal, and loan relationships on the internal watch list have remained relatively consistent in number and dollar volume during the first three months of 2020. During the first quarter of 2020, loan charge-offs were nominal, while recoveries of prior period loan charge-offs equaled $0.2 million, providing for net loan recoveries of nearly $0.2 million, or an annualized 0.03 percent of average total loans.
Shareholders’ equity totaled $418 million as of March 31, 2020, an increase of $1.8 million from year-end 2019. The Bank’s capital position remains above “well-capitalized” with a total risk-based capital ratio of 12.9 percent as of March 31, 2020, compared to 13.0 percent at December 31, 2019. At March 31, 2020, the Bank had approximately $94 million in excess of the 10.0 percent minimum regulatory threshold required to be considered a “well-capitalized” institution. Mercantile reported 16,205,207 total shares outstanding at March 31, 2020.
As part of a $20 million common stock repurchase program announced in May 2019 and instituted in conjunction with the completion of its existing program that was introduced in January 2015 and later expanded in April 2016, Mercantile repurchased approximately 222,000 shares for $6.3 million, or a weighted average all-in cost per share of $28.25, during the first quarter of 2020. During the period of January 2015 through March 2020, Mercantile repurchased approximately 1,612,000 shares for $38.9 million, or a weighted average all-in cost per share of $24.13, under the original and new programs on a combined basis. Mercantile has elected to curtail stock repurchases to preserve capital for lending and other purposes while management assesses the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Management has the ability to reinstate the buyback program as circumstances warrant.
Mr. Kaminski concluded, “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the world with some great challenges. Our pandemic response plan, which is designed to accommodate evolving information and guidance provided by government agencies and health officials, focuses on protecting our employees and customers and doing our part to help stop the spread of the virus. In addition, the plan includes flexibility to ensure we are able to satisfactorily meet our customers’ banking needs. We entered this period of uncertainty from a position of financial strength, including a strong capital position, sound asset quality, and sufficient liquidity. These sources of financial strength and our commitment to community have allowed us to offer loan payment deferrals to many commercial and retail customers and to participate in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.”
Mercantile has prepared presentation materials (the “Investor Presentation”) that management intends to use during its previously announced First Quarter 2020 conference call on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at 10:00 Eastern Time, and from time to time thereafter in presentations about the Company’s operations and performance. The Investor Presentation also contains more detailed information relating to Mercantile’s COVID-19 pandemic response plan. These materials have been furnished to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission concurrently with this press release, and are also available on Mercantile’s website at www.mercbank.com.
About Mercantile Bank Corporation
Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mercantile Bank Corporation is the bank holding company for Mercantile Bank of Michigan. Mercantile provides banking services to businesses, individuals and governmental units, and differentiates itself on the basis of service quality and the expertise of its banking staff. Mercantile has assets of approximately $3.6 billion and operates 40 banking offices. Mercantile Bank Corporation’s common stock is listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “MBWM.”
This news release contains comments or information that may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Any such comments are based on current expectations that involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from the results expressed in forward-looking statements. Factors that might cause such a difference include changes in interest rates and interest rate relationships; demand for products and services; the degree of competition by traditional and nontraditional competitors; changes in banking regulation or actions by bank regulators; changes in tax laws; changes in prices, levies, and assessments; the impact of technological advances; governmental and regulatory policy changes; the outcomes of contingencies; trends in customer behavior as well as their ability to repay loans; changes in local real estate values; changes in the national and local economies, including the significant disruption to financial market and other economic activity caused by the outbreak of COVID-19; and other factors, including risk factors, disclosed from time to time in filings made by Mercantile with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mercantile undertakes no obligation to update or clarify forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.