First Mariner total assets, earnings surge

Per-share profit up 20% to $201,537 for quarter

Banking

April 21, 1999|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

First Mariner Bancorp, the Baltimore parent of First Mariner Bank, reported a 20 percent increase in first-quarter earnings per share yesterday and powerful growth in total assets, a key measurement of a bank's size and health.

First Mariner said it earned $201,537, or 6 cents per share, for the quarter that ended March 31, up from earnings of $151,342, or 5 cents per share, for the same period last year. Total assets increased to $537.7 million -- a balance-sheet increase of 103.8 percent from a year ago.

"I think it was a very good quarter, with strong balance-sheet growth," said Collyn Bement, an analyst who follows the bank for Ferris Baker Watts in Baltimore. "I think they are doing very well."

Edwin F. Hale Sr., First Mariner's chairman and chief executive officer, attributed the growth in assets and earnings to aggressive expansion of its retail banking network and a successful advertising campaign.

"The success of our marketing campaign has exceeded our expectations with deposit growth of $41 million for the first quarter and a doubling of our monthly new account openings," Hale said. "We are especially pleased that our loan quality remained strong during this period of rapid growth."

It's the rapid growth -- coupled with a tough market for small-company stocks -- that have held down First Mariner's shares, Bement said.

The shares closed yesterday at $11.75, unchanged, down substantially from a 52-week high of $16.25.

With the bank's rapid growth, investors are wary that First Mariner might be taking on riskier loans. But that's not the case, Bement said. In fact, First Mariner's loan standards are quite high, she said. The bank has grown because Hale is a true "insider" in Baltimore with the connections needed to land new business, she said.

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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