First Essex Bancorp, Inc. Announces 21% Increase in Earnings Per Share

Apr 18, 2001, 01:00 ET from First Essex Bancorp, Inc.

    ANDOVER, Mass., April 18 /PRNewswire/ -- First Essex Bancorp, Inc.
 (Nasdaq:   FESX) today reported diluted earnings per share for the quarter ended
 March 31, 2001 was up 21% to $0.52 compared to $0.43 for the same period of
 2000. Net income for the quarter ended March 31, 2001 increased 17% to $3.9
 million as compared to $3.4 million for the same period in 2000.
     Leonard A. Wilson, First Essex's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer,
 stated, "I am delighted to report another quarter of strong earnings growth.
 In addition, we reached another important milestone for the company this
 quarter as gross loans outstanding hit the one billion dollar mark for the
 first time ever. Loans have increased by $30 million or 3% since December 31,
 2000 while deposits have increased by $42 million or 4% during the same
 period. Of particular note, our allowance for loan loss reserves also
 increased in concert with this growth. At March 31, 2001 the reserve was $13.2
 million compared to $12.7 million at year-end 2000. As we all are aware, we
 are in the midst of an economic slowdown and maintaining a strong credit
 discipline along with adequate reserves continues to be a critical factor in
 our ability to sustain the growth and profitability of our core businesses."
     Non-performing assets totaled $6.0 million or .38 % of total assets at
 March 31, 2001 compared to $2.6 million or .17% of total assets at December
 31, 2000.  This increase is due primarily to the addition of a single
 commercial credit in the non-accrual loan category. The allowance for loan
 losses was $13.2 million or 1.32% of total loans at March 31, 2001 versus an
 allowance of  $12.7 million or 1.32% of total loans at December 31, 2000.  Mr.
 Wilson commented, "non-performing assets continue to be at historically low
 levels while net charge-offs maintain last year's levels of approximately
 $600 thousand per quarter."
     Net interest income increased 15% or $1.8 million to $14.0 million for the
 three months ended March 31, 2001 versus $12.2 million for the same period of
 2000. Our net interest margin for the first quarter was 3.83%, an increase of
 11 basis points over the three months ended March 31, 2000 and 13 basis points
 over the last quarter of 2000.  Non-interest income increased $257 thousand to
 $2.0 million for the three months ended March 31, 2001 versus $1.8 million for
 the same period of 2000. This increase is primarily attributable to increases
 in fee income and gains on the sale of residential mortgage loans originated
 in the first quarter. Non-interest expenses increased $762 thousand to $8.5
 million for the three months ended March 31, 2001 versus $7.8 million for the
 same period in 2000. This increase is attributable to higher salary and
 benefit costs and interest payments on trust-preferred securities issued at
 the end of the first quarter of 2000.
     First Essex Bancorp's Annual Meeting of Stockholders will be held on
 Thursday, May 3, 2001 at 10:00 a.m. at the Andover Country Club, 60 Canterbury
 Street, Andover, Massachusetts.
 
     First Essex Bancorp, Inc. is the holding company for First Essex Bank,
 Lawrence, Massachusetts.  First Essex Bank has ten full-service banking
 offices in northern Massachusetts and nine in southern New Hampshire.  At
 March 31, 2001, the Company had total assets of $1.6 billion and deposits of
 $1.2 billion.  On March 30, 2001, First Essex Bank completed its conversion to
 a Massachusetts state-chartered savings bank. Deposits at First Essex Bank are
 insured up to the applicable limits by the FDIC, and all deposits in excess of
 the FDIC limits are insured in full by the additional coverage provided by the
 Depositors Insurance Fund.
 
     Certain statements herein constitute "forward-looking statements" and
 actual results may differ from those contemplated by these statements. The
 Company disclaims any intent or obligation to update publicly any such
 forward-looking statements, whether in response to new information, future
 events or otherwise.
 
     Customers and investors can access First Essex Bancorp, Inc. products,
 special offers and financial information, as well as communicate via e-mail
 through the Internet using our site address of http://www.firstessex.com.
 
 
                             First Essex Bancorp, Inc.
                         Consolidated Financial Highlights
 
                                                    March 31,     December 31,
                                                      2001            2000
                               (Dollars in thousands, except per share amounts)
 
     Balance Sheet Data:
     Total Assets                                  $1,578,502     $1,520,967
     Loans, Net                                       987,146        957,637
     Investments                                      441,290        453,313
     Deposits                                       1,169,754      1,127,523
     Borrowings                                       266,926        267,409
     Stockholders' Equity                             112,855        105,732
     Book Value Per Share                              $15.36         $14.42
     Capital to Asset Ratio                             7.15%          6.95%
 
 
                                                    For the Three Months Ended
                                                              March 31,
                                                         2001           2000
                               (Dollars in thousands, except per share amounts)
 
     Interest and dividend income                     $29,765        $25,767
     Interest expense                                  15,784         13,614
     Net interest income                               13,981         12,153
     Provision for loan losses                          1,125            600
     Net interest income after provision
      for loan losses                                  12,856         11,553
     Noninterest income:
      Gain on sales of loans                              279            218
      Loss on sales on investment securities              ---            (18)
      Loan fees                                           181            184
      Other income                                      1,549          1,368
       Total noninterest income                         2,009          1,752
     Noninterest expenses:
      Salaries and employee benefits                    4,106          3,722
      Occupancy and equipment                           1,258          1,136
      Professional services                               391            347
      Information processing                              724            635
      Insurance                                           116            104
      Expenses, gains and losses on, and write
       downs of foreclosed property                        48             63
      Amortization of intangible assets                   635            651
      Other                                               986          1,097
       Total noninterest expenses                       8,264          7,755
     Minority interest                                    280             27
     Income before provision for incomes                6,321          5,523
     Provision for income taxes                         2,380          2,158
     Net income
     Earnings per share - basic                        $3,941         $3,365
                                                         $.54           $.44
     Earnings per share - diluted                        $.52           $.43
     Dividends declared per share                        $.20           $.18
     Weighted average shares outstanding
      - basic                                       7,337,874      7,592,268
     Weighted average shares outstanding
      - diluted                                     7,625,852      7,738,746
     Return on average assets                           1.03%          0.97%
     Return on average equity                          14.62%         14.43%
 
 

SOURCE First Essex Bancorp, Inc.
    ANDOVER, Mass., April 18 /PRNewswire/ -- First Essex Bancorp, Inc.
 (Nasdaq:   FESX) today reported diluted earnings per share for the quarter ended
 March 31, 2001 was up 21% to $0.52 compared to $0.43 for the same period of
 2000. Net income for the quarter ended March 31, 2001 increased 17% to $3.9
 million as compared to $3.4 million for the same period in 2000.
     Leonard A. Wilson, First Essex's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer,
 stated, "I am delighted to report another quarter of strong earnings growth.
 In addition, we reached another important milestone for the company this
 quarter as gross loans outstanding hit the one billion dollar mark for the
 first time ever. Loans have increased by $30 million or 3% since December 31,
 2000 while deposits have increased by $42 million or 4% during the same
 period. Of particular note, our allowance for loan loss reserves also
 increased in concert with this growth. At March 31, 2001 the reserve was $13.2
 million compared to $12.7 million at year-end 2000. As we all are aware, we
 are in the midst of an economic slowdown and maintaining a strong credit
 discipline along with adequate reserves continues to be a critical factor in
 our ability to sustain the growth and profitability of our core businesses."
     Non-performing assets totaled $6.0 million or .38 % of total assets at
 March 31, 2001 compared to $2.6 million or .17% of total assets at December
 31, 2000.  This increase is due primarily to the addition of a single
 commercial credit in the non-accrual loan category. The allowance for loan
 losses was $13.2 million or 1.32% of total loans at March 31, 2001 versus an
 allowance of  $12.7 million or 1.32% of total loans at December 31, 2000.  Mr.
 Wilson commented, "non-performing assets continue to be at historically low
 levels while net charge-offs maintain last year's levels of approximately
 $600 thousand per quarter."
     Net interest income increased 15% or $1.8 million to $14.0 million for the
 three months ended March 31, 2001 versus $12.2 million for the same period of
 2000. Our net interest margin for the first quarter was 3.83%, an increase of
 11 basis points over the three months ended March 31, 2000 and 13 basis points
 over the last quarter of 2000.  Non-interest income increased $257 thousand to
 $2.0 million for the three months ended March 31, 2001 versus $1.8 million for
 the same period of 2000. This increase is primarily attributable to increases
 in fee income and gains on the sale of residential mortgage loans originated
 in the first quarter. Non-interest expenses increased $762 thousand to $8.5
 million for the three months ended March 31, 2001 versus $7.8 million for the
 same period in 2000. This increase is attributable to higher salary and
 benefit costs and interest payments on trust-preferred securities issued at
 the end of the first quarter of 2000.
     First Essex Bancorp's Annual Meeting of Stockholders will be held on
 Thursday, May 3, 2001 at 10:00 a.m. at the Andover Country Club, 60 Canterbury
 Street, Andover, Massachusetts.
 
     First Essex Bancorp, Inc. is the holding company for First Essex Bank,
 Lawrence, Massachusetts.  First Essex Bank has ten full-service banking
 offices in northern Massachusetts and nine in southern New Hampshire.  At
 March 31, 2001, the Company had total assets of $1.6 billion and deposits of
 $1.2 billion.  On March 30, 2001, First Essex Bank completed its conversion to
 a Massachusetts state-chartered savings bank. Deposits at First Essex Bank are
 insured up to the applicable limits by the FDIC, and all deposits in excess of
 the FDIC limits are insured in full by the additional coverage provided by the
 Depositors Insurance Fund.
 
     Certain statements herein constitute "forward-looking statements" and
 actual results may differ from those contemplated by these statements. The
 Company disclaims any intent or obligation to update publicly any such
 forward-looking statements, whether in response to new information, future
 events or otherwise.
 
     Customers and investors can access First Essex Bancorp, Inc. products,
 special offers and financial information, as well as communicate via e-mail
 through the Internet using our site address of http://www.firstessex.com.
 
 
                             First Essex Bancorp, Inc.
                         Consolidated Financial Highlights
 
                                                    March 31,     December 31,
                                                      2001            2000
                               (Dollars in thousands, except per share amounts)
 
     Balance Sheet Data:
     Total Assets                                  $1,578,502     $1,520,967
     Loans, Net                                       987,146        957,637
     Investments                                      441,290        453,313
     Deposits                                       1,169,754      1,127,523
     Borrowings                                       266,926        267,409
     Stockholders' Equity                             112,855        105,732
     Book Value Per Share                              $15.36         $14.42
     Capital to Asset Ratio                             7.15%          6.95%
 
 
                                                    For the Three Months Ended
                                                              March 31,
                                                         2001           2000
                               (Dollars in thousands, except per share amounts)
 
     Interest and dividend income                     $29,765        $25,767
     Interest expense                                  15,784         13,614
     Net interest income                               13,981         12,153
     Provision for loan losses                          1,125            600
     Net interest income after provision
      for loan losses                                  12,856         11,553
     Noninterest income:
      Gain on sales of loans                              279            218
      Loss on sales on investment securities              ---            (18)
      Loan fees                                           181            184
      Other income                                      1,549          1,368
       Total noninterest income                         2,009          1,752
     Noninterest expenses:
      Salaries and employee benefits                    4,106          3,722
      Occupancy and equipment                           1,258          1,136
      Professional services                               391            347
      Information processing                              724            635
      Insurance                                           116            104
      Expenses, gains and losses on, and write
       downs of foreclosed property                        48             63
      Amortization of intangible assets                   635            651
      Other                                               986          1,097
       Total noninterest expenses                       8,264          7,755
     Minority interest                                    280             27
     Income before provision for incomes                6,321          5,523
     Provision for income taxes                         2,380          2,158
     Net income
     Earnings per share - basic                        $3,941         $3,365
                                                         $.54           $.44
     Earnings per share - diluted                        $.52           $.43
     Dividends declared per share                        $.20           $.18
     Weighted average shares outstanding
      - basic                                       7,337,874      7,592,268
     Weighted average shares outstanding
      - diluted                                     7,625,852      7,738,746
     Return on average assets                           1.03%          0.97%
     Return on average equity                          14.62%         14.43%
 
 SOURCE  First Essex Bancorp, Inc.