First Financial Bancorp Reports 7.1% Increase in Core EPS

Apr 17, 2001, 01:00 ET from First Financial Bancorp

    HAMILTON, Ohio, April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- First Financial Bancorp
 (Nasdaq: FFBC) board chairman, Barry J. Levey, and president and chief
 executive officer, Stanley N. Pontius, today announced first-quarter 2001
 earnings of $14,013,000, or 29 cents in diluted earnings per share*, versus
 $13,870,000, or 28 cents in diluted earnings per share for the first quarter
 of 2000.
     Pontius said, "Bancorp's core earnings per share, excluding expenses
 associated with the regionalization undertaking we announced on January 25,
 2001 -- which we call Project Renaissance -- increased 7.1 percent to 30 cents
 in the first quarter of 2001 versus 28 cents in the same period last year."
     Pontius added, "We are pleased that our multi-year regionalization and
 market expansion plan is continuing to progress on schedule.  In the first
 quarter we expensed approximately $300,000 related to this project."
     Our return on assets of 1.47 percent was up over the 1.43 percent reported
 for the same period in 2000.  While first-quarter earnings increased over the
 same period in 2000, first-quarter return on average shareholders' equity
 decreased from 14.98 percent in 2000 to 14.39 percent in 2001 due to
 unrealized appreciation on investment securities which increased average
 shareholders' equity by $11 million.  Adjusting for this unrealized
 appreciation in equity and using core earnings, Bancorp's first-quarter 2001
 return on equity would be 14.73 percent versus 14.43 percent in 2000.
     First Financial's first-quarter net interest income decreased $1.7 million
 or 3.9 percent compared to the same quarter in 2000.  Since the first quarter
 of 2000, net interest income was impacted by the effects of:  changes in
 interest rates, loan sales designed to improve liquidity, the implementation
 of a plan for controlled loan growth, and the softening of loan demand which
 began in the fourth quarter of 2000.
     On a linked-quarter basis, the approximately one percent decline in net
 interest income was largely driven by year-end loan sales that were initiated
 to enhance liquidity. Because of a slowing of loan demand, Bancorp was unable
 to replace those average balances.
     The net interest margin on a fully tax equivalent (FTE) basis decreased to
 4.69 percent from a first-quarter 2000 level of 4.82 percent.  However, on a
 linked-quarter basis, the margin moved upward eight basis points.
     Noninterest income, excluding securities gains, increased $1.8 million or
 16 percent over the previous year.  Service charges on deposits continued to
 remain strong in the first quarter with an increase of 13 percent over 2000.
 Trust revenues increased 12.5 percent compared to last year.  This increase is
 a function of changes in our pricing structure which were initiated to bring
 Bancorp in line with other providers.  The "other" category of noninterest
 income increased 25 percent over the first quarter of 2000.  The increase in
 other income is a result of increased credit insurance, third-party mutual
 fund income, and key executive life insurance income.  Other income decreased
 significantly from the preceding quarter due to nonrecurring gains reported
 and discussed in the fourth quarter 2000 earnings release.  Investment
 securities gains of $148,000 realized in the first quarter were attributable
 to called securities.
     Noninterest expenses for the first quarter of 2001 increased less than one
 percent over the prior year.  Adjusting for Project Renaissance expenses in
 2001 and merger and restructuring charges in 2000, noninterest expenses
 decreased $564,000 or almost two percent.  Core expense numbers have improved
 as Bancorp realizes savings associated with the in-market consolidation of two
 affiliates, First National Bank of Southwestern Ohio and Home Federal Bank.
 Noninterest expense increased from the preceding quarter due to fourth-quarter
 being lower than normal as explained in the fourth-quarter earnings release.
     Certain credit card and merchant fees have been reclassified from net
 interest income into noninterest income and noninterest expense.  While the
 amounts reclassified are not material, Bancorp initiated this reclassification
 based on a survey of peers and best industry practices available in order to
 provide the most comparable data.  This change began in 2001, and all prior
 periods have been restated, including appropriate ratios, to reflect these
 reclassifications.
     The reserve-to-loan ratio improved to 1.33, two basis points higher than
 both the first quarter of 2000 and the linked quarter.  Total nonperforming
 assets are slightly higher than first quarter of 2000, but have decreased
 $1.1 million or 5.9 percent from the fourth quarter.  Net charge-offs as a
 percentage of average loans at 0.32 percent were higher than first quarter of
 2000, but were significantly lower than the preceding quarter.  The provision
 for loan losses was seven percent higher than the comparable period a year
 ago; however, it was substantially lower than the preceding quarter.
 Nonaccrual loans do not consist of any one large credit or groups of credit,
 or concentrations in any particular industry.   With a general slowdown in the
 economy and considerable discussion about credit quality in the financial
 services industry, Bancorp will continue to closely monitor the quality of its
 loan portfolio.
     In reviewing Bancorp's ending balance sheet, cash and due from banks has
 decreased $45 million from year-end due to normal operations and cash letter
 clearings.  Federal funds sold have increased $59 million as loan balances
 have fallen by some $36 million.  On the liability side, noninterest-bearing
 deposits decreased 6.5 percent from year-end.  Some of the decrease is
 seasonal in nature while other decreases are associated with a movement toward
 interest-bearing deposits by an income-oriented customer base.  It should be
 noted that total average deposits are up 4.25 percent from the prior year and
 down slightly over the linked quarter reflecting seasonal fluctuations.
 Short-term borrowings decreased $60 million from the preceding quarter, while
 long-term borrowings increased $49 million in conjunction with asset/liability
 management strategies.
     In the equity section of the balance sheet, changes in common stock,
 retained earnings, and treasury stock for the quarter were largely associated
 with the five percent stock dividend declared on February 27, 2001.  The
 change in accumulated comprehensive income from  $1,955,000 at year-end 2000
 to $5,819,000 at March 31, 2001, a 200 percent increase, was directly related
 to increased unrealized gains on investments available for sale as a result of
 recent decreases in interest rates.
     Bancorp continues to repurchase shares of its common stock under a program
 authorized October 24, 2000, by the corporation's board of directors.  The
 share purchase program is for general corporate purposes including future
 stock dividends.
     A $3.9 billion publicly owned financial holding company with over 4,000
 shareholders, First Financial currently operates 5 Ohio, 1 Michigan, 1
 Kentucky, and 9 Indiana affiliates with a total of 110 locations.  Additional
 information is available on First Financial's web site at www.ffbc-oh.com .
     This release should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial
 statements, notes, and tables attached and in the First Financial Bancorp
 Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2000.  Management's
 analysis may contain forward-looking statements that are provided to assist in
 the understanding of anticipated future financial performance.  However, such
 performance involves risk and uncertainties which may cause actual results to
 differ materially.  For a discussion of certain factors that may cause such
 forward-looking statements to differ materially from actual results, refer to
 the 2000 Form 10-K.
 
     * All per-share data has been restated to reflect a 5 percent stock
       dividend declared on February 27, 2001.
 
                       2001 FIRST-QUARTER EARNINGS RECAP
 
     Net Earnings                          $14,013,000
     Earnings Per Share - basic                  $0.29
     Earnings Per Share - diluted                $0.29
     Earnings Per Share - cash                   $0.30
     Common Shares Authorized              160,000,000
     Common Shares Outstanding              47,859,939
     Avg. Diluted Shares Outstanding        48,162,385
     Avg. Basic Shares Outstanding          48,094,239
     Return on Assets                             1.47%
     Return on Equity                            14.39%
 
                            FIRST FINANCIAL BANCORP.
                          CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL DATA
 
                 (Dollars in thousands, except per share data)
                                  (Unaudited)
 
 
                                                Three months ended,
                                          Mar. 31,    Dec. 31,   Sept. 30,
                                           2001        2000        2000
 
     EARNINGS
     Net interest income                  $40,445     $41,016     $41,937
     Net earnings                          14,013      14,834      15,169
     Net earnings per share - basic (b)     $0.29       $0.31       $0.31
     Net earnings per share - diluted (b)   $0.29       $0.31       $0.31
     Net earnings per share - diluted
       - cash basis (a) (b)                 $0.30       $0.32       $0.32
 
     KEY RATIOS
     Return on average assets                1.47%       1.50%       1.52%
     Return on average
       shareholders' equity                 14.39%      15.10%      15.87%
     Average shareholders' equity
       to average assets                    10.21%       9.95%       9.55%
     Net interest margin (fully
       tax equivalent)                       4.69%       4.61%       4.65%
 
 
     COMMON STOCK DATA (b)
     Average basic shares outstanding  48,094,239  48,490,734  48,628,936
     Average diluted
       shares outstanding              48,162,385  48,564,912  48,716,094
     Ending shares outstanding         47,859,939  48,286,482  48,589,003
     Market price:
      High                                 $16.61      $16.19      $18.46
      Low                                  $14.41      $13.39      $15.00
      Close                                $15.00      $16.19      $15.00
     Book value                             $8.29       $8.18       $7.94
     Common dividend declared               $0.15       $0.14       $0.14
 
 
     AVERAGE BALANCE SHEET ITEMS
     Loans less unearned income        $2,988,791  $3,045,340  $3,087,025
     Investment securities                582,627     585,968     587,117
     Other earning assets                  22,169      13,177      15,358
       Total earning assets             3,593,587   3,644,485   3,689,500
     Total assets                       3,865,828   3,927,920   3,980,154
     Non interest bearing deposits        388,887     407,181     402,495
     Interest bearing deposits          2,728,385   2,725,320   2,629,847
       Total deposits                   3,117,272   3,132,501   3,032,342
     Borrowings                           319,883     373,956     531,542
     Shareholders' equity                 394,882     390,866     380,200
 
 
     CREDIT QUALITY
     Ending allowance for loan losses     $39,541     $39,349     $40,487
     Nonperforming assets:
       Nonaccrual                          16,489      17,346      16,480
       Restructured                            79         265         721
       OREO and ISF                         1,013       1,075         919
        Total nonperforming assets         17,581      18,686      18,120
 
     Loans delinquent over 90 days          3,822       2,414       5,093
 
     Gross charge-offs                     (2,886)     (5,759)     (2,993)
     Recoveries                               550         578         568
       Net charge-offs                     (2,336)     (5,181)     (2,425)
 
 
     CREDIT QUALITY RATIOS
     Allowance to ending loans,
       net of unearned income                1.33%       1.31%       1.32%
     Nonperforming assets to ending loans,
       net of unearned income plus OREO/ISF  0.59%       0.62%       0.59%
     90 days past due to loans,
       net of unearned income                0.13%       0.08%       0.17%
     Net charge-offs to average loans,
       net of unearned income                0.32%       0.68%       0.31%
 
 
                                                      June 30,       Mar 31,
                                                        2000          2000
     EARNINGS
     Net interest income                              $42,826        $42,100
     Net earnings                                      14,349         13,870
     Net earnings per share - basic (b)                 $0.29          $0.28
     Net earnings per share - diluted (b)               $0.29          $0.28
     Net earnings per share - diluted
       - cash basis (a) (b)                             $0.31          $0.29
 
     KEY RATIOS
     Return on average assets                            1.46%          1.43%
     Return on average shareholders' equity             15.41%         14.98%
     Average shareholders' equity to average assets      9.44%          9.54%
     Net interest margin (fully tax equivalent)          4.82%          4.82%
 
 
     COMMON STOCK DATA (b)
     Average basic shares outstanding              48,835,385     49,152,625
     Average diluted shares outstanding            48,921,621     49,252,010
     Ending shares outstanding                     48,745,975     48,948,371
     Market price:
      High                                             $18.75         $18.81
      Low                                              $15.95         $14.76
      Close                                            $18.75         $17.14
     Book value                                         $7.74          $7.62
     Common dividend declared                           $0.14          $0.14
 
 
     AVERAGE BALANCE SHEET ITEMS
     Loans less unearned income                    $3,087,245     $3,066,552
     Investment securities                            569,683        536,148
     Other earning assets                              19,624         13,304
      Total earning assets                          3,676,552      3,616,004
     Total assets                                   3,965,393      3,904,639
     Non interest bearing deposits                    405,196        397,969
     Interest bearing deposits                      2,632,453      2,592,257
     Total deposits                                 3,037,649      2,990,226
     Borrowings                                       519,768        506,704
     Shareholders' equity                             374,507        372,424
 
 
     CREDIT QUALITY
     Ending allowance for loan losses                 $40,238        $40,192
     Nonperforming assets:
      Nonaccrual                                       15,586         15,019
      Restructured                                        676            637
      OREO and ISF                                      1,345          1,551
       Total nonperforming assets                      17,607         17,207
 
     Loans delinquent over 90 days                      2,875          2,252
 
      Gross charge-offs                                (2,803)        (2,089)
     Recoveries                                           627            580
      Net charge-offs                                  (2,176)        (1,509)
 
     CREDIT QUALITY RATIOS
     Allowance to ending loans,
      net of unearned income                             1.30%          1.31%
     Nonperforming assets to ending loans,
      net of unearned income plus OREO/ISF               0.57%          0.56%
      90 days past due to loans,
      net of unearned income                             0.09%          0.07%
     Net charge-offs to average loans,
      net of unearned income                             0.28%          0.20%
 
     (a) Excluding the effect of amortization of goodwill and core deposits,
         tax effected when applicable.
     (b) All per share data has been restated for a 5% stock dividend declared
         February 27, 2001.
 
 
                                          FIRST FINANCIAL BANCORP.
                                      CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF EARNINGS
                                            (Dollars in thousands)
                                                  (Unaudited)
 
                                             Three months ended,
                               Mar. 31,  Dec. 31, Sept. 30, June 30,   Mar. 31,
                                 2001      2000     2000      2000       2000
     Interest income
       Loans, including fees     $67,587  $69,922  $70,476  $68,791    $66,615
       Investment securities
          Taxable                  7,107    7,289    7,426    7,006      6,320
          Tax-exempt               1,995    2,104    2,090    2,140      2,165
             Total investment
              securities
              interest             9,102    9,393    9,516    9,146      8,485
 
       Interest-bearing
        deposits with other
        banks                         68      154      194      223        131
       Federal funds sold and
        securities
          purchased under
           agreements to
           resell                    242       87       57       72         41
            Total interest
             income               76,999   79,556   80,243   78,232     75,272
 
     Interest expense
       Deposits                   32,135   32,770   30,280   27,691     26,011
       Short-term borrowings       1,371    3,343    5,786    5,696      5,323
       Long-term borrowings        3,048    2,427    2,240    2,019      1,838
           Total interest
            expense               36,554   38,540   38,306   35,406     33,172
           Net interest income    40,445   41,016   41,937   42,826     42,100
       Provision for loan
        losses                     2,528    4,043    2,674    2,222      2,361
          Net interest income
           after provision for
           loan losses            37,917   36,973   39,263   40,604     39,739
 
     Noninterest income
       Service charges on
        deposit accounts           4,890    4,920    4,912    4,632      4,322
       Trust revenues              4,038    3,448    3,611    3,583      3,588
       Investment securities
        gains (losses)               148        2       12       11         14
       Other                       3,785    4,937    3,926    3,456      3,027
           Total noninterest
            income                12,861   13,307   12,461   11,682     10,951
 
     Noninterest expenses
       Salaries and employee
        benefits                  16,042   15,006   15,455   16,829     16,316
       Net occupancy               1,970    1,855    1,871    1,747      1,929
       Furniture and equipment     1,594    1,583    1,620    1,605      1,566
       Data processing             1,770    1,778    1,651    1,807      1,976
       Deposit insurance             150      156      124      115        147
       State taxes                   497      599      602      606        625
       Amortization of
        intangibles                  691      737      837      841        853
       Merger and
        restructuring                  0        0        0        0       (353)
       Other                       7,121    6,807    6,968    7,094      6,666
           Total noninterest
            expenses              29,835   28,521   29,128   30,644 *   29,725
     Income before income
      taxes                       20,943   21,759   22,596   21,642     20,965
     Income tax expense            6,930    6,925    7,427    7,293      7,095
           Net earnings          $14,013  $14,834  $15,169  $14,349    $13,870
 
     ADDITIONAL DATA -- FULLY TAX EQUIVALENT NET INTEREST INCOME
 
     Interest income             $76,999  $79,556  $80,243  $78,232    $75,272
     Tax equivalent adjustment     1,137    1,213    1,205    1,235      1,246
        Interest income - tax
         equivalent               78,136   80,769   81,448   79,467     76,518
     Interest expense             36,554   38,540   38,306   35,406     33,172
 
        Net interest income -
         tax equivalent          $41,582  $42,229  $43,142  $44,061    $43,346
 
     *  Includes expenses of $792,000 related to the merger of in-market
        affiliates.
 
 
                            FIRST FINANCIAL BANCORP.
                      CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CONDITION
                             (Dollars in thousands)
                                  (Unaudited)
 
                                             Mar. 31,    Dec. 31,    Mar. 31,
                                              2001        2000        2000
     ASSETS
       Cash and due from banks              $137,845    $182,058    $171,741
       Interest-bearing deposits
         with other banks                      3,459       3,248      13,290
       Federal funds sold and securities
         purchased under agreements to
         resell                               63,240       4,040         451
       Investment securities, held-to-
         maturity                             24,256      24,800      31,880
       Investment securities,
         available-for-sale                  565,503     564,762     544,759
       Loans
         Commercial                          801,508     787,436     776,881
         Real estate-construction             82,569      97,571     121,798
         Real estate-mortgage              1,422,678   1,438,339   1,469,340
         Installment                         603,891     618,489     632,029
         Credit card                          21,869      24,182      20,743
         Lease financing                      43,422      46,068      45,983
           Total loans                     2,975,937   3,012,085   3,066,774
         Less
           Unearned income                     4,081       4,019       4,263
           Allowance for loan losses          39,541      39,349      40,192
             Net loans                     2,932,315   2,968,717   3,022,319
       Premises and equipment                 57,708      58,466      58,950
       Goodwill                               28,490      28,860      29,699
       Other intangibles                       8,953       8,878      10,042
       Deferred income taxes                       0         691       8,290
       Other assets                           89,694      87,992      80,851
         Total Assets                     $3,911,463  $3,932,512  $3,972,272
 
       LIABILITIES
         Deposits
         Noninterest-bearing                $392,510    $419,878    $417,941
         Interest-bearing                  2,740,889   2,731,550   2,632,846
           Total deposits                  3,133,399   3,151,428   3,050,787
         Short-term borrowings                86,903     146,568     373,546
         Long-term borrowings                254,691     205,216     142,856
         Deferred tax payable                  1,742           0           0
         Accrued interest and
           other liabilities                  38,162      34,168      31,897
           Total Liabilities               3,514,897   3,537,380   3,599,086
 
       SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY
         Common stock                        396,767     374,336     374,237
         Retained earnings                    10,149      36,225      12,700
         Accumulated
           comprehensive income                5,819       1,955      (7,165)
         Restricted stock awards              (3,391)       (866)     (1,107)
         Treasury stock, at cost             (12,778)    (16,518)     (5,479)
           Total Shareholders' Equity        396,566     395,132     373,186
           Total Liabilities and
             Shareholders' Equity         $3,911,463  $3,932,512  $3,972,272
 
 
                      ADDITIONAL DATA -- RISK BASED CAPITAL
 
                                             Mar. 31,    Dec. 31,   Sept. 30,
                                               2001        2000        2000
 
     Tier 1 Capital                         $356,421    $358,220    $354,177
     Tier 1 Ratio                              12.47%      12.47%      12.12%
     Total Capital                          $392,216    $394,165    $390,755
     Total Capital Ratio                       13.72%      13.72%      13.37%
     Total Risk-Adjusted Assets           $2,858,498  $2,872,181  $2,922,338
     Leverage Ratio                             9.30%       9.20%       8.98%
 
                                                     June 30,          Mar. 31,
                                                       2000              2000
 
     Tier 1 Capital                                 $348,073          $343,497
     Tier 1 Ratio                                      11.83%            11.85%
     Total Capital                                  $384,899          $379,792
     Total Capital Ratio                               13.08%            13.10%
     Total Risk-Adjusted Assets                   $2,942,675        $2,899,705
     Leverage Ratio                                     8.86%             8.88%
 
 

SOURCE First Financial Bancorp
    HAMILTON, Ohio, April 17 /PRNewswire/ -- First Financial Bancorp
 (Nasdaq: FFBC) board chairman, Barry J. Levey, and president and chief
 executive officer, Stanley N. Pontius, today announced first-quarter 2001
 earnings of $14,013,000, or 29 cents in diluted earnings per share*, versus
 $13,870,000, or 28 cents in diluted earnings per share for the first quarter
 of 2000.
     Pontius said, "Bancorp's core earnings per share, excluding expenses
 associated with the regionalization undertaking we announced on January 25,
 2001 -- which we call Project Renaissance -- increased 7.1 percent to 30 cents
 in the first quarter of 2001 versus 28 cents in the same period last year."
     Pontius added, "We are pleased that our multi-year regionalization and
 market expansion plan is continuing to progress on schedule.  In the first
 quarter we expensed approximately $300,000 related to this project."
     Our return on assets of 1.47 percent was up over the 1.43 percent reported
 for the same period in 2000.  While first-quarter earnings increased over the
 same period in 2000, first-quarter return on average shareholders' equity
 decreased from 14.98 percent in 2000 to 14.39 percent in 2001 due to
 unrealized appreciation on investment securities which increased average
 shareholders' equity by $11 million.  Adjusting for this unrealized
 appreciation in equity and using core earnings, Bancorp's first-quarter 2001
 return on equity would be 14.73 percent versus 14.43 percent in 2000.
     First Financial's first-quarter net interest income decreased $1.7 million
 or 3.9 percent compared to the same quarter in 2000.  Since the first quarter
 of 2000, net interest income was impacted by the effects of:  changes in
 interest rates, loan sales designed to improve liquidity, the implementation
 of a plan for controlled loan growth, and the softening of loan demand which
 began in the fourth quarter of 2000.
     On a linked-quarter basis, the approximately one percent decline in net
 interest income was largely driven by year-end loan sales that were initiated
 to enhance liquidity. Because of a slowing of loan demand, Bancorp was unable
 to replace those average balances.
     The net interest margin on a fully tax equivalent (FTE) basis decreased to
 4.69 percent from a first-quarter 2000 level of 4.82 percent.  However, on a
 linked-quarter basis, the margin moved upward eight basis points.
     Noninterest income, excluding securities gains, increased $1.8 million or
 16 percent over the previous year.  Service charges on deposits continued to
 remain strong in the first quarter with an increase of 13 percent over 2000.
 Trust revenues increased 12.5 percent compared to last year.  This increase is
 a function of changes in our pricing structure which were initiated to bring
 Bancorp in line with other providers.  The "other" category of noninterest
 income increased 25 percent over the first quarter of 2000.  The increase in
 other income is a result of increased credit insurance, third-party mutual
 fund income, and key executive life insurance income.  Other income decreased
 significantly from the preceding quarter due to nonrecurring gains reported
 and discussed in the fourth quarter 2000 earnings release.  Investment
 securities gains of $148,000 realized in the first quarter were attributable
 to called securities.
     Noninterest expenses for the first quarter of 2001 increased less than one
 percent over the prior year.  Adjusting for Project Renaissance expenses in
 2001 and merger and restructuring charges in 2000, noninterest expenses
 decreased $564,000 or almost two percent.  Core expense numbers have improved
 as Bancorp realizes savings associated with the in-market consolidation of two
 affiliates, First National Bank of Southwestern Ohio and Home Federal Bank.
 Noninterest expense increased from the preceding quarter due to fourth-quarter
 being lower than normal as explained in the fourth-quarter earnings release.
     Certain credit card and merchant fees have been reclassified from net
 interest income into noninterest income and noninterest expense.  While the
 amounts reclassified are not material, Bancorp initiated this reclassification
 based on a survey of peers and best industry practices available in order to
 provide the most comparable data.  This change began in 2001, and all prior
 periods have been restated, including appropriate ratios, to reflect these
 reclassifications.
     The reserve-to-loan ratio improved to 1.33, two basis points higher than
 both the first quarter of 2000 and the linked quarter.  Total nonperforming
 assets are slightly higher than first quarter of 2000, but have decreased
 $1.1 million or 5.9 percent from the fourth quarter.  Net charge-offs as a
 percentage of average loans at 0.32 percent were higher than first quarter of
 2000, but were significantly lower than the preceding quarter.  The provision
 for loan losses was seven percent higher than the comparable period a year
 ago; however, it was substantially lower than the preceding quarter.
 Nonaccrual loans do not consist of any one large credit or groups of credit,
 or concentrations in any particular industry.   With a general slowdown in the
 economy and considerable discussion about credit quality in the financial
 services industry, Bancorp will continue to closely monitor the quality of its
 loan portfolio.
     In reviewing Bancorp's ending balance sheet, cash and due from banks has
 decreased $45 million from year-end due to normal operations and cash letter
 clearings.  Federal funds sold have increased $59 million as loan balances
 have fallen by some $36 million.  On the liability side, noninterest-bearing
 deposits decreased 6.5 percent from year-end.  Some of the decrease is
 seasonal in nature while other decreases are associated with a movement toward
 interest-bearing deposits by an income-oriented customer base.  It should be
 noted that total average deposits are up 4.25 percent from the prior year and
 down slightly over the linked quarter reflecting seasonal fluctuations.
 Short-term borrowings decreased $60 million from the preceding quarter, while
 long-term borrowings increased $49 million in conjunction with asset/liability
 management strategies.
     In the equity section of the balance sheet, changes in common stock,
 retained earnings, and treasury stock for the quarter were largely associated
 with the five percent stock dividend declared on February 27, 2001.  The
 change in accumulated comprehensive income from  $1,955,000 at year-end 2000
 to $5,819,000 at March 31, 2001, a 200 percent increase, was directly related
 to increased unrealized gains on investments available for sale as a result of
 recent decreases in interest rates.
     Bancorp continues to repurchase shares of its common stock under a program
 authorized October 24, 2000, by the corporation's board of directors.  The
 share purchase program is for general corporate purposes including future
 stock dividends.
     A $3.9 billion publicly owned financial holding company with over 4,000
 shareholders, First Financial currently operates 5 Ohio, 1 Michigan, 1
 Kentucky, and 9 Indiana affiliates with a total of 110 locations.  Additional
 information is available on First Financial's web site at www.ffbc-oh.com .
     This release should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial
 statements, notes, and tables attached and in the First Financial Bancorp
 Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2000.  Management's
 analysis may contain forward-looking statements that are provided to assist in
 the understanding of anticipated future financial performance.  However, such
 performance involves risk and uncertainties which may cause actual results to
 differ materially.  For a discussion of certain factors that may cause such
 forward-looking statements to differ materially from actual results, refer to
 the 2000 Form 10-K.
 
     * All per-share data has been restated to reflect a 5 percent stock
       dividend declared on February 27, 2001.
 
                       2001 FIRST-QUARTER EARNINGS RECAP
 
     Net Earnings                          $14,013,000
     Earnings Per Share - basic                  $0.29
     Earnings Per Share - diluted                $0.29
     Earnings Per Share - cash                   $0.30
     Common Shares Authorized              160,000,000
     Common Shares Outstanding              47,859,939
     Avg. Diluted Shares Outstanding        48,162,385
     Avg. Basic Shares Outstanding          48,094,239
     Return on Assets                             1.47%
     Return on Equity                            14.39%
 
                            FIRST FINANCIAL BANCORP.
                          CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL DATA
 
                 (Dollars in thousands, except per share data)
                                  (Unaudited)
 
 
                                                Three months ended,
                                          Mar. 31,    Dec. 31,   Sept. 30,
                                           2001        2000        2000
 
     EARNINGS
     Net interest income                  $40,445     $41,016     $41,937
     Net earnings                          14,013      14,834      15,169
     Net earnings per share - basic (b)     $0.29       $0.31       $0.31
     Net earnings per share - diluted (b)   $0.29       $0.31       $0.31
     Net earnings per share - diluted
       - cash basis (a) (b)                 $0.30       $0.32       $0.32
 
     KEY RATIOS
     Return on average assets                1.47%       1.50%       1.52%
     Return on average
       shareholders' equity                 14.39%      15.10%      15.87%
     Average shareholders' equity
       to average assets                    10.21%       9.95%       9.55%
     Net interest margin (fully
       tax equivalent)                       4.69%       4.61%       4.65%
 
 
     COMMON STOCK DATA (b)
     Average basic shares outstanding  48,094,239  48,490,734  48,628,936
     Average diluted
       shares outstanding              48,162,385  48,564,912  48,716,094
     Ending shares outstanding         47,859,939  48,286,482  48,589,003
     Market price:
      High                                 $16.61      $16.19      $18.46
      Low                                  $14.41      $13.39      $15.00
      Close                                $15.00      $16.19      $15.00
     Book value                             $8.29       $8.18       $7.94
     Common dividend declared               $0.15       $0.14       $0.14
 
 
     AVERAGE BALANCE SHEET ITEMS
     Loans less unearned income        $2,988,791  $3,045,340  $3,087,025
     Investment securities                582,627     585,968     587,117
     Other earning assets                  22,169      13,177      15,358
       Total earning assets             3,593,587   3,644,485   3,689,500
     Total assets                       3,865,828   3,927,920   3,980,154
     Non interest bearing deposits        388,887     407,181     402,495
     Interest bearing deposits          2,728,385   2,725,320   2,629,847
       Total deposits                   3,117,272   3,132,501   3,032,342
     Borrowings                           319,883     373,956     531,542
     Shareholders' equity                 394,882     390,866     380,200
 
 
     CREDIT QUALITY
     Ending allowance for loan losses     $39,541     $39,349     $40,487
     Nonperforming assets:
       Nonaccrual                          16,489      17,346      16,480
       Restructured                            79         265         721
       OREO and ISF                         1,013       1,075         919
        Total nonperforming assets         17,581      18,686      18,120
 
     Loans delinquent over 90 days          3,822       2,414       5,093
 
     Gross charge-offs                     (2,886)     (5,759)     (2,993)
     Recoveries                               550         578         568
       Net charge-offs                     (2,336)     (5,181)     (2,425)
 
 
     CREDIT QUALITY RATIOS
     Allowance to ending loans,
       net of unearned income                1.33%       1.31%       1.32%
     Nonperforming assets to ending loans,
       net of unearned income plus OREO/ISF  0.59%       0.62%       0.59%
     90 days past due to loans,
       net of unearned income                0.13%       0.08%       0.17%
     Net charge-offs to average loans,
       net of unearned income                0.32%       0.68%       0.31%
 
 
                                                      June 30,       Mar 31,
                                                        2000          2000
     EARNINGS
     Net interest income                              $42,826        $42,100
     Net earnings                                      14,349         13,870
     Net earnings per share - basic (b)                 $0.29          $0.28
     Net earnings per share - diluted (b)               $0.29          $0.28
     Net earnings per share - diluted
       - cash basis (a) (b)                             $0.31          $0.29
 
     KEY RATIOS
     Return on average assets                            1.46%          1.43%
     Return on average shareholders' equity             15.41%         14.98%
     Average shareholders' equity to average assets      9.44%          9.54%
     Net interest margin (fully tax equivalent)          4.82%          4.82%
 
 
     COMMON STOCK DATA (b)
     Average basic shares outstanding              48,835,385     49,152,625
     Average diluted shares outstanding            48,921,621     49,252,010
     Ending shares outstanding                     48,745,975     48,948,371
     Market price:
      High                                             $18.75         $18.81
      Low                                              $15.95         $14.76
      Close                                            $18.75         $17.14
     Book value                                         $7.74          $7.62
     Common dividend declared                           $0.14          $0.14
 
 
     AVERAGE BALANCE SHEET ITEMS
     Loans less unearned income                    $3,087,245     $3,066,552
     Investment securities                            569,683        536,148
     Other earning assets                              19,624         13,304
      Total earning assets                          3,676,552      3,616,004
     Total assets                                   3,965,393      3,904,639
     Non interest bearing deposits                    405,196        397,969
     Interest bearing deposits                      2,632,453      2,592,257
     Total deposits                                 3,037,649      2,990,226
     Borrowings                                       519,768        506,704
     Shareholders' equity                             374,507        372,424
 
 
     CREDIT QUALITY
     Ending allowance for loan losses                 $40,238        $40,192
     Nonperforming assets:
      Nonaccrual                                       15,586         15,019
      Restructured                                        676            637
      OREO and ISF                                      1,345          1,551
       Total nonperforming assets                      17,607         17,207
 
     Loans delinquent over 90 days                      2,875          2,252
 
      Gross charge-offs                                (2,803)        (2,089)
     Recoveries                                           627            580
      Net charge-offs                                  (2,176)        (1,509)
 
     CREDIT QUALITY RATIOS
     Allowance to ending loans,
      net of unearned income                             1.30%          1.31%
     Nonperforming assets to ending loans,
      net of unearned income plus OREO/ISF               0.57%          0.56%
      90 days past due to loans,
      net of unearned income                             0.09%          0.07%
     Net charge-offs to average loans,
      net of unearned income                             0.28%          0.20%
 
     (a) Excluding the effect of amortization of goodwill and core deposits,
         tax effected when applicable.
     (b) All per share data has been restated for a 5% stock dividend declared
         February 27, 2001.
 
 
                                          FIRST FINANCIAL BANCORP.
                                      CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF EARNINGS
                                            (Dollars in thousands)
                                                  (Unaudited)
 
                                             Three months ended,
                               Mar. 31,  Dec. 31, Sept. 30, June 30,   Mar. 31,
                                 2001      2000     2000      2000       2000
     Interest income
       Loans, including fees     $67,587  $69,922  $70,476  $68,791    $66,615
       Investment securities
          Taxable                  7,107    7,289    7,426    7,006      6,320
          Tax-exempt               1,995    2,104    2,090    2,140      2,165
             Total investment
              securities
              interest             9,102    9,393    9,516    9,146      8,485
 
       Interest-bearing
        deposits with other
        banks                         68      154      194      223        131
       Federal funds sold and
        securities
          purchased under
           agreements to
           resell                    242       87       57       72         41
            Total interest
             income               76,999   79,556   80,243   78,232     75,272
 
     Interest expense
       Deposits                   32,135   32,770   30,280   27,691     26,011
       Short-term borrowings       1,371    3,343    5,786    5,696      5,323
       Long-term borrowings        3,048    2,427    2,240    2,019      1,838
           Total interest
            expense               36,554   38,540   38,306   35,406     33,172
           Net interest income    40,445   41,016   41,937   42,826     42,100
       Provision for loan
        losses                     2,528    4,043    2,674    2,222      2,361
          Net interest income
           after provision for
           loan losses            37,917   36,973   39,263   40,604     39,739
 
     Noninterest income
       Service charges on
        deposit accounts           4,890    4,920    4,912    4,632      4,322
       Trust revenues              4,038    3,448    3,611    3,583      3,588
       Investment securities
        gains (losses)               148        2       12       11         14
       Other                       3,785    4,937    3,926    3,456      3,027
           Total noninterest
            income                12,861   13,307   12,461   11,682     10,951
 
     Noninterest expenses
       Salaries and employee
        benefits                  16,042   15,006   15,455   16,829     16,316
       Net occupancy               1,970    1,855    1,871    1,747      1,929
       Furniture and equipment     1,594    1,583    1,620    1,605      1,566
       Data processing             1,770    1,778    1,651    1,807      1,976
       Deposit insurance             150      156      124      115        147
       State taxes                   497      599      602      606        625
       Amortization of
        intangibles                  691      737      837      841        853
       Merger and
        restructuring                  0        0        0        0       (353)
       Other                       7,121    6,807    6,968    7,094      6,666
           Total noninterest
            expenses              29,835   28,521   29,128   30,644 *   29,725
     Income before income
      taxes                       20,943   21,759   22,596   21,642     20,965
     Income tax expense            6,930    6,925    7,427    7,293      7,095
           Net earnings          $14,013  $14,834  $15,169  $14,349    $13,870
 
     ADDITIONAL DATA -- FULLY TAX EQUIVALENT NET INTEREST INCOME
 
     Interest income             $76,999  $79,556  $80,243  $78,232    $75,272
     Tax equivalent adjustment     1,137    1,213    1,205    1,235      1,246
        Interest income - tax
         equivalent               78,136   80,769   81,448   79,467     76,518
     Interest expense             36,554   38,540   38,306   35,406     33,172
 
        Net interest income -
         tax equivalent          $41,582  $42,229  $43,142  $44,061    $43,346
 
     *  Includes expenses of $792,000 related to the merger of in-market
        affiliates.
 
 
                            FIRST FINANCIAL BANCORP.
                      CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CONDITION
                             (Dollars in thousands)
                                  (Unaudited)
 
                                             Mar. 31,    Dec. 31,    Mar. 31,
                                              2001        2000        2000
     ASSETS
       Cash and due from banks              $137,845    $182,058    $171,741
       Interest-bearing deposits
         with other banks                      3,459       3,248      13,290
       Federal funds sold and securities
         purchased under agreements to
         resell                               63,240       4,040         451
       Investment securities, held-to-
         maturity                             24,256      24,800      31,880
       Investment securities,
         available-for-sale                  565,503     564,762     544,759
       Loans
         Commercial                          801,508     787,436     776,881
         Real estate-construction             82,569      97,571     121,798
         Real estate-mortgage              1,422,678   1,438,339   1,469,340
         Installment                         603,891     618,489     632,029
         Credit card                          21,869      24,182      20,743
         Lease financing                      43,422      46,068      45,983
           Total loans                     2,975,937   3,012,085   3,066,774
         Less
           Unearned income                     4,081       4,019       4,263
           Allowance for loan losses          39,541      39,349      40,192
             Net loans                     2,932,315   2,968,717   3,022,319
       Premises and equipment                 57,708      58,466      58,950
       Goodwill                               28,490      28,860      29,699
       Other intangibles                       8,953       8,878      10,042
       Deferred income taxes                       0         691       8,290
       Other assets                           89,694      87,992      80,851
         Total Assets                     $3,911,463  $3,932,512  $3,972,272
 
       LIABILITIES
         Deposits
         Noninterest-bearing                $392,510    $419,878    $417,941
         Interest-bearing                  2,740,889   2,731,550   2,632,846
           Total deposits                  3,133,399   3,151,428   3,050,787
         Short-term borrowings                86,903     146,568     373,546
         Long-term borrowings                254,691     205,216     142,856
         Deferred tax payable                  1,742           0           0
         Accrued interest and
           other liabilities                  38,162      34,168      31,897
           Total Liabilities               3,514,897   3,537,380   3,599,086
 
       SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY
         Common stock                        396,767     374,336     374,237
         Retained earnings                    10,149      36,225      12,700
         Accumulated
           comprehensive income                5,819       1,955      (7,165)
         Restricted stock awards              (3,391)       (866)     (1,107)
         Treasury stock, at cost             (12,778)    (16,518)     (5,479)
           Total Shareholders' Equity        396,566     395,132     373,186
           Total Liabilities and
             Shareholders' Equity         $3,911,463  $3,932,512  $3,972,272
 
 
                      ADDITIONAL DATA -- RISK BASED CAPITAL
 
                                             Mar. 31,    Dec. 31,   Sept. 30,
                                               2001        2000        2000
 
     Tier 1 Capital                         $356,421    $358,220    $354,177
     Tier 1 Ratio                              12.47%      12.47%      12.12%
     Total Capital                          $392,216    $394,165    $390,755
     Total Capital Ratio                       13.72%      13.72%      13.37%
     Total Risk-Adjusted Assets           $2,858,498  $2,872,181  $2,922,338
     Leverage Ratio                             9.30%       9.20%       8.98%
 
                                                     June 30,          Mar. 31,
                                                       2000              2000
 
     Tier 1 Capital                                 $348,073          $343,497
     Tier 1 Ratio                                      11.83%            11.85%
     Total Capital                                  $384,899          $379,792
     Total Capital Ratio                               13.08%            13.10%
     Total Risk-Adjusted Assets                   $2,942,675        $2,899,705
     Leverage Ratio                                     8.86%             8.88%
 
 SOURCE  First Financial Bancorp