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first_imgJanuary 23, 2008Merchants Bancshares, Inc Announces 2007 ResultsSOUTH BURLINGTON – Merchants Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ: MBVT), the parent company of Merchants Bank, announced January 23 net income of $10.86 million or diluted earnings per share of $1.76 for the year ended December 31, 2007. This compares with net income of $10.87 million or diluted earnings per share of $1.73 from the previous year. Merchants earned $2.92 million or diluted earnings per share of 48 cents for the quarter ended December 31, 2007, compared to net income of $2.83 million or diluted earnings per share of 45 cents for the same quarter of the previous year. Merchants also announced the extension through January 2009 of its stock buyback program, originally adopted in January 2006. Merchants may repurchase 200,000 shares of its common stock on the open market from time to time, and had purchased 59,118 shares through December 31, 2007 under the program. Merchants previously announced the declaration of a dividend of 28 cents per share, payable February 14, 2008, to shareholders of record as of January 31, 2008.The return on average assets was 0.96% for 2007 and 1.00% for the quarter ended December 31, 2007, compared to 0.98% and 1.00%, respectively, for the same periods in 2006. The return on average equity was 15.37% for the year and 16.03% for the fourth quarter of 2007, compared to 16.24% and 16.30%, respectively, for the same periods in 2006.”Credit and interest rate market conditions during 2007 were challenging,” said Michael R. Tuttle, Merchants’ President and CEO. “Results for 2007 were flat compared to 2006, in spite of the addition of $1.15 million to our allowance for loan losses and further margin compression. Continued growth in loans and noninterest income, coupled with good control over noninterest expense, were important factors in our 2007 results. The year ahead will offer both significant challenges and opportunities to improve performance.”Merchants recorded a $300 thousand provision for credit losses during the fourth quarter of 2007, and $1.15 million year to date; no provision for credit losses was recorded during 2006. The increase in the provision for 2007 was primarily a result of increases in nonperforming loans and growth in the overall loan portfolio during 2007. Nonperforming loans ended the year at $9.23 million, a $6.53 million increase from December 31, 2006 balances.The net increase during the year was primarily attributable to $6.9 million in loans related to a residential construction project. At December 31, 2007, the allowance for loan losses was $8.00 million, 1.09% of total loans and 87% of non-performing loans. Net charge-offs for 2007 totaled $81 thousand, compared to net recoveries of $198 thousand for 2006. Merchants had two small properties with a combined value of $475 thousand in Other Real Estate Owned (OREO) at December 31, 2007. Nonperforming assets as a percentage of total assets were 0.83%.Net interest income was $38.21 million for 2007, a decrease of $498 thousand from 2006, and was $9.63 million for the fourth quarter of 2007, a decrease of $134 thousand from the same quarter of the prior year. Merchants net interest margin has continued to come under pressure during 2007, and decreased 13 basis points during 2007. Total average earning assets have increased $25 million to $1.08 billion for 2007 compared to 2006, and the rate earned on those assets has increased 10 basis points to 6.01% for the same time period. The rate earned on Merchants loan portfolio dropped six basis points during 2007, as a result of both an overall lower interest rate environment and increases in nonperforming loans. At the same time, the average rate earned on Merchants’ investment portfolio increased by 13 basis points as Merchants was able to replace amortization in the portfolio with higher yielding assets. Merchants’ cost of funds increased 29 basis points when comparing 2007 to 2006. Merchants experienced continued migration to its time categories from its transaction categories during the year. Average time deposits for the fourth quarter of 2007 were $28.61 million higher than for the fourth quarter of 2006, while average Savings, NOW and Money Market accounts were $23.12 million lower for the same time period. The cost of transaction accounts was unchanged from 2006 to 2007, while the cost of time deposits increased 63 basis points. Merchants raised rates on time deposits during the first three quarters of the year to be competitive in the local marketplace. These rates have started to moderate as short-term interest rates have moved down during the last two quarters.Total assets increased $33.79 million to $1.17 billion at December 31, 2007 from $1.14 billion at December 31, 2006. Total loans increased to $731.51 million at December 31, 2007 from $689.28 million at December 31, 2006. Increases in average balances were driven primarily by growth in residential mortgages and commercial loans.Merchants investment portfolio increased to $365.59 million at December 31, 2007 from $339.57 million at December 31, 2006. Merchants took advantage of the steepening yield curve toward the end of 2007 and increased the investment portfolio by $62.86 million during the fourth quarter of 2007. These investments were funded by a mix of Federal Home Loan Bank borrowings and structured repurchase agreements. During the fourth quarter, Merchants long term repurchase agreement position increased $21.50 million and its long term FHLB borrowing position increased $17.53 million. The average spread earned on the leveraged investment trades was approximately 130 basis points.Average deposits for the fourth quarter of 2007 were $874.41 million, an increase of $9.44 million from quarterly average deposits for the fourth quarter of last year of $864.97 million. Merchants continued to make progress with its business banking deposits and introduced new programs during 2007. A more integrated approach to packaging deposit accounts and services has facilitated customer movement of funds to the most advantageous structures. Although growth in balances was moderate, the number of banking relationships continues to grow.Merchants noninterest income increased $520 thousand for the fourth quarter of 2007, compared to the same quarter in 2006; and $1.29 million for 2007, compared to 2006. Excluding losses on investment securities, noninterest income increased $508 thousand for the fourth quarter of 2007, compared to the same quarter in 2006; and $926 thousand when comparing 2007 to 2006. Merchants wound up an investment in a limited partnership during the fourth quarter of 2007 and recognized a reduction in equity in losses of real estate limited partnerships of approximately $260 thousand. The balance of the year over year increase is a result of a combination of increased Trust revenue, increased debit card revenue and increased overdraft fee income. Total noninterest expenses decreased $8 thousand for the fourth quarter of 2007, and decreased by $302 thousand, when comparing 2007 to 2006. This decrease is primarily a result of decreases in employee benefits, which decreased $58 thousand for the fourth quarter of 2007, compared to 2006 and decreased $502 thousand for 2007, compared to 2006. The primary reason for this change is a reduction in Merchants employer match for its 401(k) plan for 2007. Merchants expenses related to OREO increased during 2007 as OREO balances grew to $475 thousand at year end.Mr. Michael Tuttle, Merchants’ President and Chief Executive Officer; and Ms. Janet Spitler, Merchants Chief Financial Officer, will host a conference call to discuss these earnings results at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, January 25, 2008. Interested parties may participate in the conference call by dialing (888) 428-4480; the title of the call is Earnings Release Conference Call for Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Participants are asked to call a few minutes prior to register. A replay will be available until noon on Friday, February 1, 2008. The U.S. replay dial-in telephone number is (800) 475-6701. The international replay telephone number is (320) 365-3844. The replay access code for both replay telephone numbers is 902415.The continuing mission of Merchants Bank is to provide Vermonters with a state-wide community bank that blends a strong technology platform with a genuine appreciation for local markets. Merchants Bank fulfills this commitment through a branch-based system that includes 36 community bank offices and 44 ATMs throughout Vermont, Personal Bankers dedicated to top-quality customer service and streamlined solutions, including: Personal Checking and Savings with Free Checking for Life®, a low-cost Money Market Account, Free Online Banking and Bill Pay, Overdraft Coverage, Direct Deposit, Free Debit Card, and Free Automated Phone Banking; Business Banking with Business Online Banking and Bill Pay, Business Lines of Credit and Merchant Card Processing; Small Business Loans; Health Savings Accounts; Credit Cards; Flexible Certificates of Deposit; Vehicle Loans; Home Equity Credit; and Home Mortgages. Visit mbvt.com for more information. Merchants stock is traded on the NASDAQ National Market system under the symbol MBVT. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.Some of the statements contained in this press release constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements relate to expectations, beliefs, projections, future plans and strategies, anticipated events or trends and similar expressions concerning matters that are not historical facts. The forward-looking statements reflect Merchants’ current views about future events and are subject to risks, uncertainties, assumptions and changes in circumstances that may cause Merchants’ actual results to differ significantly from those expressed in any forward-looking statement. Forward-looking statements should not be relied on since they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that are, in some cases, beyond Merchants control and which could materially affect actual results. The factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations include changes in general economic conditions in Vermont, changes in interest rates, changes in competitive product and pricing pressures among financial institutions within Merchants markets, and changes in the financial condition of Merchants’ borrowers. The forward-looking statements contained herein represent Merchants’ judgment as of the date of this report, and Merchants cautions readers not to place undue reliance on such statements. For further information, please refer to Merchants reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.last_img

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