News Column

First Hawaiian ups loan activity while net income dips

January 24, 2014

Segal, Dave

First Hawaiian Bank is hoping to cash in on Oahu's accelerating construction industry. The state's largest bank boosted its loans 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter to a record $9.5 billion and sees more lending activity ahead despite slowing growth in the state's tourism industry. "We are participating in several of the new residential condominium projects being built," Bob Harrison , president and chief executive officer of First Hawaiian, said ahead of the bank's earnings report due out today. "As those come under construction, we'll see loan activity from that, and there will always be follow-on projects related to that." The bank said net income slipped 3 percent to $51.5 million from $53.1 million in the year-earlier quarter due in part to the smaller spread between the bank's lending rates and deposit rates, or its net interest margin. First Hawaiian is a wholly owned subsidiary of French banking giant BNP Paribas and is not required to separately report its earnings. The bank voluntarily releases selected earnings data each quarter, but the report isn't as extensive as those required of all publicly traded banks. The bank said its earnings last quarter were bolstered by $50 million of noninterest income, which includes service charges and fees. First Hawaiian collected $47.1 million in noninterest income in the year-earlier quarter. Its net interest income, the difference between what it pays depositors and what it receives from loans, fell 2.1 percent to $108.2 million . Harrison said the shrinking net interest margin has been a problem nationwide. "It's what banks across the country are working through," he said. First Hawaiian's net interest margin in the fourth quarter shrank to 2.87 percent from 3.06 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. "As rates have continued to decline and our assets -- loans and securities -- reprice at lower interest rates, that's when the margin compresses because deposit rates are as low as they can go," Harrison said. First Hawaiian pays 0.02 percent for a regular savings account with a minimum deposit of $2,500 . The bank's net income for the year also fell. It declined 4.6 percent to $206.9 million from $216.9 million in 2012. "I'm happy with the quarter and the year when you look at what the bank has accomplished in the growth of loans," Harrison said. "The 5.7 percent year-over-year is tremendous. It really shows that we are out there supporting the economy using the deposits people give us to support the community." Since 2003 First Hawaiian's annual loans have grown more than 89 percent to $9.5 billion from $5 billion . During that same 11-year period, assets rose 72 percent to $17.1 billion from $9.9 billion , and deposits increased 91 percent to $13.6 billion from $7.1 billion . Harrison said the slowing of growth in Hawaii's tourism industry may be balanced by growth in construction. "Our economy is primarily based on tourism, and you never like to see a decline in growth, but growth over the last couple of years was so strong that we always felt there would be a tapering of that growth," Harrison said. "The good news is we see a pickup in construction broadly on Oahu , which will help the economy." Credit: Dave Segal


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Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)


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