1st Mariner loss narrows in 4th quarter

Bank parent says revenue nearly doubled to $13.8 million

February 03, 2010|By Gus G. Sentementes | gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

The parent company of 1st Mariner Bank, Baltimore's largest independent bank, said Tuesday that its loss narrowed in last year's fourth quarter while operating under the scrutiny of regulators.

First Mariner Bancorp said that it posted a loss of $3.7 million, or 57 cents per share, in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $9.4 million, or $1.46, per share, in the final quarter of 2008. Total revenue climbed to $13.8 million in the quarter, compared with $7 million in the previous year's period.

The bank's loss was fueled by $4.5 million in credit-related charges to earnings, which included a $3.3 million provision for loan losses and $1.2 million in expenses connected to foreclosed properties. Such credit-related expenses decreased by more than a third in the final quarter of 2009, First Mariner said.

Edwin F. Hale Sr., chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement that he was encouraged by the stabilization in asset quality and a decrease in loan delinquencies during the year's final quarter.

"I thought in 2007 we hit bottom, and we were obviously wrong," Hale said of the loan market. "We still have some more work to do, but we think we have our arms around it and we're ahead of it. I could not have said that last year."

In November, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va., ordered the bank to devise a plan to boost its capital and won't let the bank pay dividends or take on new debt without regulator approval. Hale pointed to the sale of Mariner Finance LLC, a consumer finance arm, in the third quarter as a move that helped boost the bank's total capital ratio, though it didn't buoy profits.

In December, the bank disclosed that it will attempt to raise $20 million by offering its shareholders the right to buy additional stock as a way to raise money. A company spokesman declined to comment on that effort.

Also in December, the Nasdaq stock market notified 1st Mariner that it failed to meet minimum requirements for market value and stock price, and warned that it could eventually be dropped from the electronic exchange.

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