Community banks in Manatee, Sarasota improve balance sheets

MANATEE — Community banks across Manatee and Sarasota counties have improved their balance sheets this year as real estate prices rose and fewer loans defaulted.

Every bank based north of Venice up to the Hillsborough County line reported profitability through the first nine months of the year, with most also recording third quarter gains and higher income over a year ago, according to call reports made available Wednesday.

The broad momentum is a sign banking in Southwest Florida has turned the corner from the dark days of the recession, when nearly a dozen area financial institutions shuttered.

Lead by the acquisition of The Palm Bank in Tampa Bay earlier this year, C1 Bank notched the area’s highest third-quarter profits of $2.205 million for the three months that ended Sept. 30 — matching its recording income of $2.2 million in the second quarter.

The 21-branch bank, which completed the move from Lakewood Ranch to downtown St. Petersburg during the summer, grew its year-to-date income to $5.413 million.

Newcomer Gateway Bank of Southwest Florida in Sarasota also had a strong quarter, with $1.03 million in gains, bringing year-to-date net income attributable to the bank to $2.678 million.Though this time last year, Gateway earned a net of $467,000, records show.

The 2008 startup has benefited from ideal timing, avoiding most of the financial troubles associated with Florida’s historic housing roller coaster.

1st Manatee Bank in Parrish saw its net income rise 37 percent from last year to reach $588,000 through September, including profits of $221,000 in the third quarter.

After reporting a $1.6 million loss during the first nine months of 2011, Bradenton’s First America Bank also righted the ship.

First America recorded $325,000 in net income for year; $84,000 in quarter three, according to the lender’s call report.

Sabal Palm in Sarasota has had net profits of $219,000 so far this year — including a $93,000 third quarter gain — in the wake of a $353,000 loss through three quarters last year.

At Insignia Bank in Sarasota, a $129,000 third-quarter gain helped muscle a year-to-date bottom line of $463,000. That slightly trails the net income of $472,000 the bank reported through this time a year ago.

Even the region’s most troubled lender has begun to show signs of life.The Bank of Commerce in Sarasota ended the third quarter with a $46,133 operating loss, despite positive core earnings.

Even after the drop, however, the lender’s year-to-date profitability has reached $455,970, a drastic turnaround from the $2.639 million operating loss sustained one year earlier.

Recent improvements in real estate values have helped bolster returns on bank-owned properties, while capital ratios went up, keeping the lender in the black.Most of the gains this year have come in the first quarter, when it reported $435,270 in profits.

Bank of Commerce has been operating under a consent order by the FDIC for more than a year, which requires the company to meet certain standards, including raising capital.

The lender has opened a stock offering of 15 million additional shares at $1 a piece. The bank’s improved performance of late has helped reinvigorate that initiative among potential investors, said President and CEO Charles Murphy.

“Certainly the economy is helping us,” he said. “The other thing is we have identified our problem issues and we’re working through them ... Already interest from investors has improved. It’s obviously been a challenge, but we’re the only ones left (from the boom). We’re the survivor. That’s significant with all this area went through, and all the bank failures.”

For more on this story, see later or pick up a copy of Thursday’s Bradenton Herald.

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman