First Mariner's losses climb 69 percent for year Branch expansion blamed

bank is optimistic

April 02, 1997|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

First Mariner Bancorp's losses jumped 69 percent last year, due in part to soaring expenses from a major branch expansion, the company said yesterday.

The Canton-based banking company lost $2.2 million, or $1.71 a share, for the year ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $1.3 million, or $1.88 a share, the same time a year earlier.

Edwin F. Hale Sr., First Mariner's chairman and the Baltimore shipping executive who started the bank nearly two years ago, said, however, that he expects the bank to be profitable this year.

"We feel like we have turned the corner," Hale said. "We've gotten everything up to speed, so we feel pretty comfortable with the way our first quarter is going."

First Mariner's stock fell $1 to close at $12.25 a share.

It's not uncommon for start-up banks to lose money the first three years in business. First Mariner's losses have accelerated largely because of its rapid growth.

The bank opened for business May 22, 1995, and it has 13 branches with four more under construction, Hale said.

Expenses shot up 126.2 percent in 1996 to $5.84 million compared with $2.58 million in 1995. First Mariner also paid a one-time fee of $154,000 to recapitalize the fund that insures savings and loan deposits, and it increased its provision for loan losses to $1 million, up from $190,000.

First Mariner's assets jumped 151 percent to $132.6 million in 1996, net loans grew 218 percent to $94.6 million, and deposits grew by 147 percent to $102.3 million.

Most publicly held companies released year-end numbers in January and February. First Mariner's numbers were released yesterday because the bank became a publicly held company three-and-a-half months ago. It raised $15.6 million in an initial offering, and has $23.8 million in equity.

First Mariner will release its first quarter earnings on April 22, Hale said. Alex Hart, a banking analyst with Ferris, Baker Watts Inc., said he expected the loss, but was surprised deposits and loans grew so rapidly. "They're doing something right," he said.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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