United Community Banks, Inc. (NASDAQ: UCBI) ("United") today announced its first quarter financial results, including solid year-over-year loan and deposit growth, improved operating efficiency and continued strong asset quality.
Reported diluted earnings per share were $0.55, an increase of $0.08 or 17% from a year ago. Excluding merger-related and other charges, diluted operating earnings per share were $0.56, up 12% over last year. United's return on assets ("ROA") reached 1.44% with a return on equity of 11.9%. On an operating basis, United's ROA was 1.45% with a return on tangible common equity of 15.5%.
During the quarter, United benefitted from continued net interest margin expansion. Higher loan yields and an intentional balance sheet deleveraging strategy, including a reduction of $183 million in securities and wholesale borrowings were primary factors in the net interest margin expansion. The company also achieved more than 5% annualized loan growth (7% excluding the planned runoff of the discontinued indirect auto portfolio). Core transaction deposits grew by $135 million, or 8% annualized, and total customer deposits increased by $125 million during the quarter. United's expense management resulted in a 55.32% efficiency ratio or 54.78% on an operating basis—both results are historical lows for the company.
"Our first quarter performance begins what we believe will be an outstanding year," said Lynn Harton, President and Chief Executive Officer of United. "We continue to invest in thoughtful growth and in hiring the right bankers in the right markets, while maintaining strong expense discipline. We are proud to have reported a second consecutive quarter with a 1.45% return on assets on an operating basis, a historically high level. This performance would simply not be possible without our outstanding team, which earned United the distinction this quarter of being named one of the "World's Best Banks 2019" by Forbes. In February, we announced that our team will be expanding with the acquisition of First Madison Bank & Trust in Athens, Georgia. We look forward to welcoming First Madison and to adding loyal customers and another attractive market to our footprint in the second quarter."
First Quarter 2019 Financial Highlights:
•GAAP EPS growth of 17% versus last year, or 12% on an operating basis
•Return on assets of 1.44%, or 1.45%, excluding merger-related and other charges
•Return on common equity of 11.9%
•Return on tangible common equity of 15.5%, excluding merger-related and other charges
•Loan growth, excluding planned runoff of the indirect portfolio, of 7% on an annualized basis
•Loan production of $782 million, as compared to $666 million in Q1 2018
•Loan growth of $110 million more than funded by core transaction deposit growth of $135 million
•Expansion of the net interest margin to 4.10%, up 13 basis points from the fourth quarter of 2018 and up 30 basis points from a year ago
•Efficiency ratio of 55.3%, or 54.8%, excluding merger-related and other charges
•Net charge-offs of fifteen basis points, up six basis points from last quarter, but remain at a historically low level
•Nonperforming assets of 0.20% of total assets, compared with 0.20% at December 31, 2018 and 0.24% at March 31, 2018
•Repurchased 305,000 common shares in Q1, or $7.8 million as part of authorized $50 million repurchase program
•Intentional balance sheet deleveraging, resulting in securities decreasing by $183 million ($122 million average), offset by a reduction in wholesale borrowings
United will hold a conference call, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the contents of this press release and to share business highlights for the quarter. To access the call, dial (877) 380-5665 and use the conference number 9567597. The conference call also will be webcast and available for replay for 30 days by selecting "Events & Presentations" within the Investor Relations section of United's website at www.ucbi.com.
About United Community Banks, Inc.
United Community Banks, Inc. (NASDAQ: UCBI) is a bank holding company headquartered in Blairsville, Georgia, with executive offices in Greenville, South Carolina. The company is one of the southeast region's largest full-service financial institutions with $12.5 billion in assets, and 149 offices in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee which operate as United Community Bank, the company's bank subsidiary. The bank specializes in personalized community banking services for individuals, small businesses and corporations. Services include a full range of consumer and commercial banking products, including mortgage, advisory, and treasury management. Respected national research firms consistently recognize United Community Bank for outstanding customer service. For the last five years, J.D. Power has ranked United Community Bank first in customer satisfaction in the Southeast. In 2019, for the sixth consecutive year, Forbes magazine included United on its list of the 100 Best Banks in America, and for the first time included United on its list of The World's Best Banks. Additional information about the company and the bank can be found at www.ucbi.com.