updated 4/26/2011 4:47:21 PM ET 2011-04-26T20:47:21

BOSTON, April 26, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Meridian Interstate Bancorp, Inc. (the "Company" or "Meridian") (Nasdaq:EBSB), the holding company for East Boston Savings Bank (the "Bank"), which also operates under the name Mt. Washington Bank, a Division of East Boston Savings Bank ("Mt. Washington"), announced net income of $3.2 million, or $0.15 per share (basic and diluted), for the quarter ended March 31, 2011, compared to $2.9 million, or $0.13 per share (basic and diluted), for the quarter ended March 31, 2010. The Company's return on average assets was 0.69% for each of the quarters ended March 31, 2011 and March 31, 2010. For the quarter ended March 31, 2011, the Company's return on average equity increased to 5.89% from 5.62% for the quarter ended March 31, 2010.

Richard J. Gavegnano, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, noted, "I am pleased to report net income of $3.2 million, earnings per share of $0.15, a return on assets of 0.69% and a return on equity of 5.89% for the first quarter of 2011. Following our successful merger and integration of Mt. Washington Co-operative Bank last year, we are taking additional steps this year to build our market share and future earnings potential. During January, we opened an East Boston Savings Bank branch in the City of Revere and a Mt. Washington branch in Boston's West Roxbury area. Another new Mt. Washington branch is scheduled to open in Boston's South End by early summer with a new East Boston Savings Bank branch planned for Cambridge later in the year. At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to expand residential and commercial lending capacity in both divisions of the Bank."

Net interest income decreased $336,000, or 2.3%, to $14.4 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 from $14.8 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2010. The net interest rate spread and net interest margin were 3.23% and 3.40%, respectively, for the quarter ended March 31, 2011, compared to 3.75% and 3.92%, respectively, for the quarter ended March 31, 2010. The decrease in net interest income was due primarily to deposit growth that was in excess of loan growth along with declines in yields on loans and securities for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 compared to the quarter ended March 31, 2010. The average balance of the Company's loan portfolio increased $42.8 million, or 3.7%, to $1.194 billion, which was partially offset by a decline in the yield on loans of 12 basis points to 5.59% for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 compared to the quarter ended March 31, 2010. The average balance of the Company's interest-bearing deposits increased $157.4 million, or 13.1%, to $1.357 billion, which was partially offset by a decline in the cost of deposits of five basis points to 1.37% for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 compared to the quarter ended March 31, 2010. The Company's yield on interest-earning assets declined by 59 basis points to 4.69% for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 compared to 5.28% for the quarter ended March 31, 2010, while the cost of interest-bearing liabilities declined seven basis points to 1.46% for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 compared to 1.53% for the quarter ended March 31, 2010.

The Company's provision for loan losses was $342,000 for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 compared to $1.4 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2010. This change was based primarily on management's assessment of loan portfolio growth and composition changes, and an ongoing evaluation of credit quality and current economic conditions. The reduction in the provision for loan losses was primarily due to lower provision expense related to specific reserves recorded for impaired loans for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 compared to the quarter ended March 31, 2010. The allowance for loan losses was $10.3 million or 0.87% of total loans outstanding at March 31, 2011, compared to $10.2 million or 0.86% of total loans outstanding at December 31, 2010. Non-performing loans increased to $50.8 million, or 4.27% of total loans outstanding at March 31, 2011, from $43.1 million, or 3.64% of total loans outstanding at December 31, 2010. Non-performing assets increased to $55.8 million, or 2.93% of total assets, at March 31, 2011, from $47.2 million, or 2.57% of total assets, at December 31, 2010. Non-performing assets at March 31, 2011 were comprised of $22.9 million of construction loans, $9.5 million of commercial real estate loans, $11.7 million of one-to four-family mortgage loans, $4.2 million of multi-family mortgage loans, $2.5 million of home equity loans and foreclosed real estate of $5.0 million. Non-performing assets at March 31, 2011 included $16.2 million acquired in the Mt. Washington merger, comprised of $13.2 million of non-performing loans and $3.0 million of foreclosed real estate.

Non-interest income increased $1.1 million, or 45.3%, to $3.6 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 from $2.5 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2010, primarily due to increases of $867,000 in gain on sales of securities and $415,000 in equity income on investment from the Company's Hampshire First Bank affiliate, partially offset by decreases of $118,000 in customer service fees and $129,000 in gain on sales of loans.

Non-interest expense increased $1.3 million, or 11.2%, to $12.6 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 from $11.3 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2010. This increase was due primarily to increases of $934,000 in salaries and employee benefits, $433,000 in occupancy and equipment expenses, and $110,000 in deposit insurance premiums, partially offset by decreases of $117,000 in foreclosed real estate expenses and $139,000 in other general and administrative expenses. The increases in non-interest expenses include employee, occupancy and equipment expenses associated with two new branches opened during the quarter ended March 31, 2011. The Company's efficiency ratio was 73.40% for the quarter ended March 31, 2011 as compared to 65.72% for the quarter ended March 31, 2010.

Mr. Gavegnano noted, "The increase in our efficiency ratio for the first quarter of 2011 reflects the costs of additional staffing, facilities and other overhead expenses associated with our new branches and other business expansion efforts."

The Company recorded a provision for income taxes of $1.9 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2011, reflecting an effective tax rate of 37.1%, compared to $1.7 million, or 37.1%, for the quarter ended March 31, 2010.

Total assets increased $64.9 million, or 3.5%, to $1.901 billion at March 31, 2011 from $1.836 billion at December 31, 2010. Cash and cash equivalents increased $31.8 million, or 20.4%, to $187.3 million at March 31, 2011 from $155.5 million at December 31, 2010. Securities available for sale increased $34.4 million, or 9.5%, to $395.0 million at March 31, 2011 from $360.6 million at December 31, 2010. Net loans increased $6.6 million, or 0.6%, to $1.180 billion at March 31, 2011 from $1.174 billion at December 31, 2010.

Total deposits increased $43.5 million, or 3.0%, to $1.499 billion at March 31, 2011 from $1.455 billion at December 31, 2010, including growth of $38.1 million in core deposits. This growth also reflects $18.2 million of new deposits in the two branches opened in January 2011. Total borrowings increased $9.2 million, or 6.2%, to $157.8 million at March 31, 2011 from $148.7 million at December 31, 2010, reflecting a $9.5 million increase in short-term borrowings.

Total stockholders' equity increased $2.7 million, or 1.3%, to $218.3 million at March 31, 2011, from $215.6 million at December 31, 2010. The increase was due primarily to $3.2 million in net income partially offset by a $596,000 decrease in accumulated other comprehensive income reflecting a decrease in the fair value of available for sale securities, net of tax. Stockholders' equity to assets was 11.49% at March 31, 2011, compared to 11.74% at December 31, 2010.  Book value per share increased to $9.72 at March 31, 2011 from $9.59 at December 31, 2010. Tangible book value per share increased to $9.11 at March 31, 2011 from $8.98 at December 31, 2010. Market price per share increased $2.26, or 19.2%, to $14.05 at March 31, 2011 from $11.79 at December 31, 2010. At March 31, 2011, the Company and the Bank continued to exceed all regulatory capital requirements.

As of March 31, 2011, the Company had repurchased 212,163 shares of its stock at an average price of $11.29 per share as included in treasury stock, or 44.9% of the 472,428 shares authorized for repurchase under the Company's third stock repurchase program announced on April 9, 2010.

Mr. Gavegnano added, "Since December 2008, we have repurchased a total of 1,143,663 shares. Along with additional stock repurchases, we continue to evaluate various other opportunities to enhance shareholder value, including new business lines, potential mergers, strategic alliances and partnerships."

Meridian Interstate Bancorp, Inc. is the holding company for East Boston Savings Bank. East Boston Savings Bank, a Massachusetts-chartered stock savings bank founded in 1848, operates 21 full service locations in the greater Boston metropolitan area including seven full service locations in its Mt. Washington Bank Division.  We offer a variety of deposit and loan products to individuals and businesses located in our primary market, which consists of Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk Counties, Massachusetts. For additional information, visit www.ebsb.com.

Forward Looking Statements

Certain statements herein constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements may be identified by words such as "believes," "will," "expects," "project," "may," "could," "developments," "strategic," "launching," "opportunities," "anticipates," "estimates," "intends," "plans," "targets" and similar expressions. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Meridian Interstate Bancorp, Inc.'s management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements as a result of numerous factors. Factors that could cause such differences to exist include, but are not limited to, general economic conditions, changes in interest rates, regulatory considerations, and competition and the risk factors described in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Should one or more of these risks materialize or should underlying beliefs or assumptions prove incorrect, Meridian Interstate Bancorp, Inc.'s actual results could differ materially from those discussed. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this release.

MERIDIAN INTERSTATE BANCORP, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES    
Consolidated Balance Sheets    
(Unaudited)    
     
  March 31, December 31,
(Dollars in thousands) 2011 2010
ASSETS    
Cash and due from banks  $ 187,197  $ 155,430
Federal funds sold  63  63
Total cash and cash equivalents  187,260  155,493
     
Certificates of deposit - affiliate bank  2,508  --
Securities available for sale, at fair value  395,034  360,602
Federal Home Loan Bank stock, at cost  12,538  12,538
Loans held for sale   2,815  13,013
     
Loans  1,190,510  1,183,717
Less allowance for loan losses  (10,323)  (10,155)
Loans, net  1,180,187  1,173,562
     
Bank-owned life insurance  34,146  33,829
Foreclosed real estate, net  4,966  4,080
Investment in affiliate bank  11,982  11,497
Premises and equipment, net  35,260  34,425
Accrued interest receivable  7,164  7,543
Prepaid deposit insurance  2,439  3,026
Deferred tax asset, net  5,792  5,441
Goodwill  13,687  13,687
Other assets  4,902  7,094
     
Total assets  $ 1,900,680  $ 1,835,830
     
LIABILITIES AND STOCKHOLDERS' EQUITY    
Deposits:    
Non interest-bearing  $ 115,988  $ 111,423
Interest-bearing  1,382,699  1,343,792
Total deposits  1,498,687  1,455,215
     
Short-term borrowings - affiliate bank  11,455  1,949
Short-term borrowings - other  10,042  10,037
Long-term debt  136,350  136,697
Accrued expenses and other liabilities  25,830  16,321
Total liabilities  1,682,364  1,620,219
Stockholders' equity:    
Common stock, no par value, 50,000,000 shares authorized; 23,000,000 shares issued   --  --
Additional paid-in capital  97,165  97,005
Retained earnings  125,774  122,563
Accumulated other comprehensive income  7,442  8,038
Treasury stock, at cost, 215,554 and 192,218 shares at March 31, 2011 and December 31, 2010, respectively  (2,425)  (2,121)
Unearned compensation - ESOP, 693,450 and 703,800 shares at March 31, 2011 and December 31, 2010, respectively  (6,934)  (7,038)
Unearned compensation - restricted shares, 321,645 and 326,905 at March 31, 2011 and December 31, 2010, respectively  (2,706)  (2,836)
Total stockholders' equity  218,316  215,611
     
Total liabilities and stockholders' equity  $ 1,900,680  $ 1,835,830
MERIDIAN INTERSTATE BANCORP, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES
Consolidated Statements of Income
(Unaudited)
     
  Three Months Ended March 31, 
(Dollars in thousands, except per share amounts) 2011 2010
Interest and dividend income:    
Interest and fees on loans  $ 16,446  $ 16,210
Interest on debt securities   3,105  3,441
Dividends on equity securities  253  205
Interest on certificates of deposit  8  17
Interest on other interest-earning assets  85  12
Total interest and dividend income  19,897  19,885
Interest expense:    
Interest on deposits   4,573  4,199
Interest on short-term borrowings  10  29
Interest on long-term debt  879  886
Total interest expense  5,462  5,114
     
Net interest income  14,435  14,771
Provision for loan losses   342  1,374
Net interest income, after provision for loan losses  14,093  13,397
Non-interest income:    
Customer service fees  1,296  1,414
Loan fees  231  158
Gain on sales of loans, net  436  565
Gain on sales of securities, net  867  --
Income from bank-owned life insurance  317  292
Equity income on investment in affiliate bank  485  70
Total non-interest income  3,632  2,499
Non-interest expenses:    
Salaries and employee benefits   7,101  6,167
Occupancy and equipment   2,216  1,783
Data processing  809  754
Marketing and advertising  541  466
Professional services  644  720
Foreclosed real estate  37  154
Deposit insurance  625  515
Other general and administrative   651  790
Total non-interest expenses  12,624  11,349
Income before income taxes  5,101  4,547
Provision for income taxes  1,890  1,687
Net income  $ 3,211  $ 2,860
     
Income per share:    
Basic  $ 0.15  $ 0.13
Diluted  $ 0.15  $ 0.13
     
Weighted average shares:    
Basic  21,982,714  22,133,155
Diluted  22,095,617  22,133,155
MERIDIAN INTERSTATE BANCORP, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES
Net Interest Income Analysis
(Unaudited)
             
   For the Three Months Ended March 31, 
  2011 2010
  Average   Yield/ Average   Yield/
(Dollars in thousands) Balance Interest Cost Balance Interest Cost
Assets:            
Interest-earning assets:            
Loans   $ 1,194,169  $ 16,446 5.59%  $ 1,151,328  $ 16,210  5.71%
Securities and certificates of deposits  372,945  3,366  3.66  341,330  3,663  4.35
Other interest-earning assets   154,304  85  0.22  35,279  12  0.14
Total interest-earning assets   1,721,418  19,897  4.69  1,527,937  19,885  5.28
Noninterest-earning assets   137,038      138,229    
Total assets   $ 1,858,456      $ 1,666,166    
             
Liabilities and stockholders' equity:            
Interest-bearing liabilities:            
NOW deposits   $ 129,029  148  0.47  $ 107,768  128  0.48
Money market deposits   336,768  867  1.04  300,778  893  1.20
Regular and other deposits   191,668  260  0.55  178,937  246  0.56
Certificates of deposit   699,128  3,298  1.91  611,717  2,932  1.94
Total interest-bearing deposits   1,356,593  4,573  1.37  1,199,200  4,199  1.42
Borrowings  156,151  889  2.31  156,537  915  2.37
Total interest-bearing liabilities   1,512,744  5,462  1.46  1,355,737  5,114  1.53
Noninterest-bearing demand deposits   113,209      95,943    
Other noninterest-bearing liabilities   14,399      10,970    
Total liabilities   1,640,352      1,462,650    
Total stockholders' equity   218,104      203,516    
Total liabilities and stockholders' equity   $ 1,858,456      $ 1,666,166    
             
Net interest-earning assets  $ 208,674      $ 172,200    
Net interest income     $ 14,435      $ 14,771  
Interest rate spread      3.23%      3.75%
Net interest margin      3.40%      3.92%
Average interest-earning assets to average interest-bearing liabilities     113.79%      112.70%  
             
(1) Loans on non-accrual status are included in average balances.             
             
(2) Interest rate spread represents the difference between the yield on interest-earning assets and        
the cost of interest-bearing liabilities.            
             
(3) Net interest margin represents net interest income divided by average interest-earning assets.        
(4) Annualized.            
MERIDIAN INTERSTATE BANCORP, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES
Selected Financial Highlights
(Unaudited)
       
  At or For the Three Months Ended  
  March 31,  
  2011 2010  
       
Key Performance Ratios      
Return on average assets (1)  0.69%  0.69%  
Return on average equity (1)  5.89  5.62  
Stockholders' equity to total assets  11.49  11.95  
Interest rate spread (1) (2)  3.23  3.75  
Net interest margin (1) (3)  3.40  3.92  
Non-interest expense to average assets (1)  2.72  2.72  
Efficiency ratio (4)  73.40  65.72  
       
  March 31, December 31, March 31,
  2011 2010 2010
       
Asset Quality Ratios      
Allowance for loan losses/total loans  0.87%  0.86%  0.92%
Allowance for loan losses/non-performing loans  20.32  23.54  31.45
Non-performing loans/total loans  4.27  3.64  2.93
Non-performing loans/total assets  2.67  2.35  1.97
Non-performing assets/total assets  2.93  2.57  2.26
       
Share Related      
Book value per share   $ 9.72  $ 9.59  $ 9.08
Tangible book value per share   $ 9.11  $ 8.98  $ 8.54
Market value per share  $ 14.05  $ 11.79  $ 10.40
Shares outstanding 22,462,801 22,480,877 22,615,294
       
(1) Annualized.      
       
(2) Interest rate spread represents the difference between the yield on interest-earning assets and the cost of interest-bearing liabilities.      
       
(3) Net interest margin represents net interest income divided by average interest-earning assets.      
       
(4) The efficiency ratio represents non-interest expense divided by the sum of net interest income and non-interest income excluding gains or losses on securities.      
CONTACT: Richard J. Gavegnano, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
         (978) 977-2211

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