updated 10/20/2010 7:16:09 AM ET 2010-10-20T11:16:09

GULFPORT, Miss., Oct. 19, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Hancock Holding Company (Nasdaq:HBHC) — "the Company" —today announced net income for the quarter ended September 30, 2010. Hancock's third quarter 2010 net income was $14.9 million, and diluted earnings per share were $0.40. Compared to the second quarter of 2010, net income for 2010's third quarter was up $8.4 million, or 129 percent, while diluted earnings per share were $0.23 higher. Return on average assets for the third quarter was 0.70 percent.

On a year-to-date basis, Hancock earned $35.2 million, with diluted earnings per share of $0.94. Hancock's year-to-date 2010 results include the impact of the Company's common stock offering and acquisition of Peoples First Community Bank (Peoples First), both of which were completed in the fourth quarter of 2009.    

Hancock's pre-tax, pre-provision income for the third quarter was $34.0 million, an increase of $1.2 million, or 3.7 percent, over the second quarter of 2010. Pre-tax pre-provision income is total revenue less non-interest expense and excludes one-time merger expenses and securities transactions.

Hancock Holding Company President and Chief Executive Officer Carl J. Chaney commented on Hancock's third quarter results, "Hancock's entire management team is pleased with the improvement in the Company's third quarter earnings as compared to the prior quarter. Net income increased $8.4 million, or 129 percent, with our return on average assets coming in at 0.70 percent. We also improved our already very strong capital position by increasing the Company's tangible common equity ratio to 9.68 percent at September 30 — all very enviable measures in this challenging economic environment."

The most significant driver of the Company's improved earnings from last quarter was reflected in an $8.3 million reduction in the provision for loan losses. The lower provision resulted from the absence of any need to add to last quarter's specific reserve related to the Gulf Oil Spill ($5.2 million) and also a lower level of required reserve build related to the Company's loan portfolio ($2.5 million this quarter versus $5.4 million last quarter). The Company also reduced operating expenses $4.1 million, or 5.6 percent, from last quarter, with much of that improvement related to the absence of second quarter one-time merger-related costs related to the Peoples First acquisition, as well as on-going expense efficiencies.

Chaney continued, "In addition, more good news for the entire Gulf South Region was received with the recent permanent capping of the Gulf Oil Spill. However, much work remains to be done in terms of the environmental clean-up and business recovery from that event."

Highlights & Key Operating Items from Hancock's Third Quarter Results

Balance Sheet & Capital

Total assets at September 30, 2010, were $8.24 billion, down $261 million, or 3.1 percent, from $8.50 billion at June 30, 2010. Compared to September 30, 2009, total assets increased $1.43 billion, or 21.1 percent. The overall increase in total assets from 2009's third quarter was due to the acquisition of Peoples First in December 2009. Hancock continued to remain very well capitalized with total equity of $865.8 million at September 30, 2010, up $211.0 million, or 32.2 percent, from September 30, 2009. Hancock's tangible equity ratio at September 30, 2010, was 9.68 percent, up 36 basis points from the 9.32 percent reported at June 30, 2010.

Loan Growth

For the quarter ended September 30, 2010, Hancock's average total loans were $4.98 billion, which represented an increase of $674.3 million, or 15.7 percent, from the same quarter a year ago but was down $32.9 million, or 0.7 percent, from the second quarter of 2010 due to a continued lessening of loan demand in the Company's operating region. The increased level of average loans from the same quarter a year ago was primarily related to the acquisition of Peoples First loans with loss share coverage from the FDIC. Period-end loans were down $64.2 million, or 1.3 percent, from June 30, 2010. The decrease in period-end loans was reflected in mortgage loans (down $44.8 million, or 6.1 percent), direct consumer loans (down $8.3 million or 1.1 percent), indirect consumer loans (down $7.2 million, or 2.2 percent), and finance company loans (down $4.1 million or 3.9 percent). 

Deposit Growth

Period-end deposits for the third quarter were $6.71 billion, up $1.29 billion, or 23.8 percent, from September 30, 2009, but were down $251.8 million, or 3.6 percent, from June 30, 2010. Average deposits were down $156.4 million, or 2.2 percent, from the second quarter of 2010 but were up $1.28 billion, or 22.9 percent, from September 30, 2009. The increase in average and period-end deposits from the same quarter a year ago was due to the acquisition of Peoples First in December 2009. The reduction in average and period-end deposits from the second quarter were related to $875 million in second quarter maturities of mostly higher costing time deposits (2.25 percent), the majority of which, over 70 percent, were retained at significantly lower rates (1.00 to 1.50 percent).       

Asset Quality

Net charge-offs for 2010's third quarter were $13.8 million, or 1.10 percent of average loans, down $0.1 million from the $13.9 million, or 1.11 percent of average loans, reported for the second quarter of 2010. Non-performing assets as a percent of total loans and foreclosed assets were 3.55 percent at September 30, 2010, down from 3.89 percent at June 30, 2010. The total dollar value of non-performing assets was down $19.6 million, or 10.0 percent, between June 30, 2010, and September 30, 2010. Approximately $10.7 million of loans (of which $9.1 million were on non-accrual status) were designated as troubled debt restructuring (TDR) at September 30, 2010. Non-accrual loans decreased $17.3 million, while other real estate owned (ORE) decreased $13.0 million compared to the prior quarter. Loans 90 days past due or greater (accruing) as a percent of period end loans, decreased 1 basis point from June 30, 2010, to 0.15 percent at September 30, 2010.

Hancock recorded a provision for loan losses for the third quarter of $16.3 million. The Company's allowance for loan losses was $79.7 million at September 30, 2010, and $77.2 million at June 30, 2010. The ratio of the allowance for loan losses as a percent of period-end loans was 1.62 percent at September 30, 2010, compared to 1.55 percent at June 30, 2010. Hancock's reserving methodologies required the Company to increase the allowance for loan losses by $2.5 million in the third quarter versus the $5.4 million of reserve build that was required in the previous quarter. Also, in the second quarter of 2010, the Company accrued a specific reserve of $5.2 million due to the Gulf Oil Spill. While no increase in this specific reserve was necessary in the third quarter, Hancock is continuing to monitor the impact of the Gulf Oil Spill is having on the Company's affected markets.

Additional asset quality information (inclusive and exclusive of the covered assets of Peoples First) is provided in the following table:

Net Interest Income

Net interest income (taxable equivalent or te) for the third quarter increased $9.0 million, or 14.7 percent, while the net interest margin (te) of 3.85 percent was 1 basis point narrower than the same quarter a year ago. Growth in average earning assets was strong compared to the same quarter a year ago with an increase of $929.2 million, or 14.8 percent, mostly reflected in higher average loans (up $674.3 million, or 15.7 percent) and was due primarily to the fourth quarter 2009 acquisition of Peoples First.

The Company's loan yield decreased 19 basis points over the prior year's third quarter, while the yield on securities decreased 64 basis points, pushing the yield on average earning assets down 39 basis points. However, total funding costs over the same quarter a year ago were down 37 basis points. 

Compared to the prior quarter, the net interest margin (te) was narrower by 2 basis points, and the level of net interest income was down $1.2 million, or 1.7 percent. The yield on average earning assets was down 19 basis points from last quarter at 4.87 percent, while the total cost of funds decreased 17 basis points.   

Non-interest Income

Non-interest income for the third quarter was up $4.8 million, or 15.8 percent, compared to the same quarter a year ago and decreased $85 thousand, or 0.2 percent, compared to the previous quarter. Factors impacting non-interest income compared to the same quarter a year ago were higher levels of other income (up $1.6 million or 57.3 percent), secondary mortgage market operations (up $1.1 million or 73.3 percent), investment and annuity fees (up $0.9 million or 44.8 percent), debit card and merchant fees (up $0.8 million or 28.3 percent), ATM fees (up $0.8 million or 41.8 percent), and trust fees (up $0.1 million or 3.2 percent) partially offset by a decrease in service charges on deposit accounts of $0.5 million, or 3.9 percent.

The slight decrease in non-interest income compared to the prior quarter was due to a decrease in service charges on deposit accounts (down $1.0 million or 8.1 percent), debit card and merchant fees (down $0.3 million or 7.1 percent), trust fees (down $0.3 million  or 6.1 percent), and insurance fees (down $0.1 million or 2.9 percent). These decreases were mostly offset by increases in secondary mortgage market operations (up $1.0 million or 68.0 percent), ATM fees (up $0.3 million or 13.7 percent), and investment and annuity fees (up $0.2 million or 9.1 percent).

Operating Expense & Taxes

Operating expenses for the third quarter were up $12.3 million, or 22.1 percent, compared to the same quarter a year ago, and were $4.1 million, or 5.6 percent, lower than the previous quarter. The increase from the same quarter a year ago was reflected in higher personnel expense (up $6.8 million or 23.3 percent), other operating expense (up $4.6 million or 24.7 percent), occupancy expense (up $0.5 million or 10.0 percent), amortization of intangibles (up $0.3 million or 85.3 percent), and equipment expense (up $0.1 million or 4.1 percent). The increases were primarily due to the acquisition of Peoples First. The decrease from the prior quarter was due to a decrease in other operating expense (down $4.0 million or 14.7 percent), occupancy expense (down $0.4 million or 6.1 percent), and equipment expense (down $0.1 million or 5.5 percent). These decreases were slightly offset by an increase in personnel expense (up $0.5 million or 1.4 percent).

For the nine months ended September 30, 2010 and 2009, the effective income tax rates were approximately 13 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Because of the reduced level of pre-tax income in 2010, the tax exempt interest income and the utilization of tax credits had a significant impact on the effective tax rate. The source of the tax credits for 2010 and 2009 resulted from investments in New Market Tax Credits, Qualified Bond Credits, and Work Opportunity Tax Credits.

About Hancock Holding Company

Hancock Holding Company — parent company of Hancock Bank (Mississippi), Hancock Bank of Louisiana, and Hancock Bank of Alabama — had assets of approximately $8.2 billion as of September 30, 2010. Founded in 1899, Hancock Bank consistently ranks as one of the country's strongest, safest financial institutions, according to BauerFinancial, Inc. More corporate information and e-banking are available at www.hancockbank.com .

The Hancock Holding Company logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=2758

"SAFE HARBOR" STATEMENT UNDER THE PRIVATE SECURITIES LITIGATION REFORM ACT OF 1995Congress passed the Private Securities Litigation Act of 1995 in an effort to encourage corporations to provide information about companies' anticipated future financial performance. This act provides a safe harbor for such disclosure, which protects the companies from unwarranted litigation if actual results are different from management expectations. This release contains forward-looking statements and reflects management's current views and estimates of future economic circumstances, industry conditions, company performance, and financial results. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of factors and uncertainties which could cause the Company's actual results and experience to differ from the anticipated results and expectations expressed in such forward-looking statements.

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