1st Mariner has its best quarter

Earnings increase 177%, with profits more than doubling over 1Q last year

April 17, 2002|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

First Mariner Bancorp reported the best quarter in its history yesterday.

The Baltimore-based banking company said its earnings rocketed 177 percent in the first quarter, with profit jumping from $312,000 in the first quarter last year to $863,000 in the latest period. Earnings per share rose 78 percent - from 9 cents in last year's first quarter to 16 cents this year.

That marked the sixth straight quarter of increasing earnings and was the best performance to date for First Mariner, which was formed in 1995. First Mariner Bancorp is the parent of First Mariner Bank.

"We're off to a solid start in 2002," said Edwin F. Hale Sr., First Mariner's chairman and chief executive officer. "Our earnings momentum continues to build and our strong balance sheet growth continued. ... In short, it was a good quarter for us, and we remain optimistic about the remainder of the year."

First Mariner said the strong results were driven by a revenue increase of $1.9 million, or 23 percent, while noninterest expenses grew at a 15 percent rate. Deposits grew by 21 percent, to $607 million. Assets as of March 31 were $791 million, up 12 percent from a year earlier.

Chief Financial Officer Mark Keidel said First Mariner has slowed its expansion and is concentrating on building the bank's business in the areas it serves now.

A look at the first-quarter earnings from each of the past three years underscores the results that the bank's strategies are yielding, Keidel said.

First Mariner earned $55,000 in the first quarter of 2000, then grew to $312,000 in the first quarter last year and $863,000 in the first quarter this year.

The steady rise in earnings "basically [reflects] the maturing of the franchise," Keidel said "We're leveraging our infrastructure and building our brand."

The bank has 22 branches, three fewer than it did a year ago. It consolidated three Dundalk branches and shut down a branch in a supermarket in Harford County.

First Mariner's shares closed up 11 cents yesterday to $11.39.

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