First Mariner Bancorp, parent of the Baltimore-based bank that is under federal orders to raise capital, posted Monday a fourth-quarter net loss of $33.4 million, or $1.85 per share — its largest quarterly loss since at least 2000.
The loss was largely due to a $29.9 million charge to the company's income tax expense, reflecting the lower value of its deferred tax assets. For the same quarter a year ago, the company reported a loss of $3.8 million, or 58 cents per share.
Excluding the charge, the company said its loss for the three months ending Dec. 31 was $3.5 million.
First Mariner Bank, Baltimore's largest independent financial institution, has been under federal orders to increase its capital levels since fall 2009. While the parent company has raised at least $25 million to comply with the order, the bank still falls short of meeting key capital targets imposed by regulators. The company said the tax charge did not significantly affect the bank's capital ratios.
The chairman and chief executive of First Mariner, Edwin F. Hale Sr., said in a statement that the company continues to "work diligently" to increase the bank's capital levels. Hale said federal regulators have been kept aware of the bank's progress.
First Mariner said operating results improved in the quarter. Net interest income increased to $8.1 million, up from $7.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2009. And operating expenses fell to $15.8 million, down from nearly $17 million, after the company implemented cost-cutting measures, including staff reductions and branch closures.
Net charge-offs, which are debts that cannot be collected and must be written off the company's books, fell 24 percent to $2.1 million for the fourth quarter, down from $2.7 million for the corresponding period a year ago.
Nonperforming assets, however, rose 26 percent to $72.2 million, from $57.4 million. Those assets are debt obligations where borrowers have not paid any interest or principal to the bank.
Banking analyst Bert Ely said First Mariner still has asset-quality problems. He added that the bank is not making progress on its capital-raising efforts, causing concerns about the its future.
"It's still in a very weak condition," he said.
Total revenue for the quarter decreased to $13.3 million, from $13.8 million a year ago. Deposits fell to $1.12 billion, from $1.15 billion in 2009. Assets fell 5 percent from a year ago to $1.3 billion.
For the year, First Mariner posted a net loss of $46.1 million, compared with a loss of $22.3 million for 2009.