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Mercantile Bank Corporation Reports First Quarter 2011 Results

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., April 19, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Mercantile Bank Corporation (Nasdaq:MBWM) ("Mercantile") reported net income attributable to common shares of $1.1 million, or $0.12 per diluted common share, for the first quarter of 2011 compared with a net loss attributable to common shares of $3.0 million, or ($0.35) per diluted common share, for the first quarter of 2010.
/ Source: GlobeNewswire

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., April 19, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Mercantile Bank Corporation (Nasdaq:MBWM) ("Mercantile") reported net income attributable to common shares of $1.1 million, or $0.12 per diluted common share, for the first quarter of 2011 compared with a net loss attributable to common shares of $3.0 million, or ($0.35) per diluted common share, for the first quarter of 2010.

Mercantile returned to profitability during the first quarter of 2011 after reporting net losses during 2009 and 2010. A record high net interest margin and a significantly lower provision for loan losses were the key drivers of the improved performance. The decreased provision expense for the quarter reflects lower volumes of loan rating downgrades and nonperforming loans, as well as progress in the stabilization of economic and real estate market conditions and resulting collateral valuations.

Michael Price, Chairman and CEO of Mercantile Bank Corporation, stated, "We are pleased to report first quarter results, our first profitable quarter after two years of quarterly losses. As we've stated repeatedly in past quarters, we have been consistently conservative in our approach to credit administration and aggressive with respect to the resolution of problem assets. At the onset of the recession, senior management and the Board of Directors developed strategies to counter the negative impact of the distressed economy and subsequent decline in real estate values. In addition, we restructured our branch network, cut discretionary operating expenses, downsized our loan portfolio, enhanced our deposit product offerings and improved our loan and deposit pricing strategies to preserve and even boost our capital position. Considerable resources have been applied to credit administration and problem asset resolution. The process has been stressful to all concerned -- borrowers as well as the Mercantile team -- but I have been pleased by the spirit of cooperation that prevailed among and between all constituencies.

"This quarter clearly demonstrates the light at the other side of this lengthy tunnel. Although nonperforming assets remain higher than we would like, significant reductions have been achieved over the past twelve months and evidence of recovery is unmistakable. New additions to the problem loan portfolio were significantly lower this quarter, and loans 30 to 89 days delinquent are virtually zero. We have also been upgrading certain of our existing loans based on the improving credit strength of those borrowers. All of these factors contributed to this quarter's sharply lower loan loss provision, which we believe is sustainable.

"We are enthused to be emerging from the prolonged stress of this economic cycle in a position of strength. Credit policies and procedures have been honed under the most challenging circumstances, providing for improved profitability of performing loans, a pruned loan portfolio and enhanced risk identification and administration practices. Our net interest margin reached a record high this quarter, despite the $60 million of nonperforming loans remaining in the mix, and we have made substantial reductions to our controllable overhead expenses. Our regulatory capital ratios are strong and improving, and we have improved our liquidity position through dramatically reduced reliance on wholesale funding and higher levels of short-term investments. We believe these enhancements are also sustainable and will contribute to profitability in future quarters."

Operating Results

Total revenue, consisting of net interest income and noninterest income, was $15.2 million during the 2011 first quarter, down $1.8 million, or 10.4 percent, from the $17.0 million generated during the first quarter of 2010. Net interest income was $13.4 million, down $0.9 million, or 6.0 percent, from the $14.3 million earned in the prior-year first quarter. The decrease in net interest income resulted from a 16.7 percent decline in average earning assets, partially offset by a 39 basis point expansion in the net interest margin. 

Noninterest income for the 2011 first quarter was $1.8 million. Excluding first quarter 2010 nonrecurring gains totaling $0.7 million from the sale of SBA-guaranteed commercial loans and tax-exempt securities, first quarter 2011 noninterest income was down $0.2 million, or 10.6 percent, from the comparable prior-year period. The decrease in noninterest income primarily reflects lower rental income from fewer foreclosed properties.

The provision for loan losses was $2.2 million during the first quarter of 2011, compared to $8.4 million for the year-ago quarter. The reduced provision expense reflects several positive factors: a significant decline in total nonperforming loans, a slowdown in loan-rating downgrades, an increase in loan-rating upgrades resulting from improving economic conditions, and progress in the stabilization of real estate valuations in Mercantile's markets. The allowance for loan losses was 3.49 percent of total loans as of March 31, 2011, compared to 3.59 percent as of December 31, 2010, and 3.35 percent as of March 31, 2010. 

Noninterest expense for the 2011 first quarter was $11.6 million, down $0.1 million from the year-ago quarter. Reduced controllable expenses, namely salaries and benefits, occupancy, and furniture and equipment costs, and lower FDIC insurance premiums were substantially offset by increased nonperforming asset costs. Controllable expenses declined $0.5 million, or 7.7 percent, during the first quarter of 2011 compared to the prior-year quarter. FDIC insurance premiums were $0.9 million in the first quarter of 2011, down from $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2010; the lower premiums primarily resulted from a decreased assessment base and rate. Costs associated with the administration and resolution of problem assets (i.e., legal expenses, property tax payments, appraisal costs and write-downs on foreclosed properties) totaled $3.1 million during the first quarter of 2011, up $0.6 million, or 23.7 percent, from the year-ago quarter.

Balance Sheet

Total assets as of March 31, 2011 were $1.58 billion, down $55.5 million, or 3.4 percent, from December 31, 2010; total loans declined $55.7 million, or 4.4 percent, over the same time period, to $1.21 billion. Compared to March 31, 2010, total assets declined $326 million, or 17.1 percent, with total loans declining $291 million, or 19.4 percent.

Real estate loans, particularly loans secured by commercial properties, comprise a majority of Mercantile's loan portfolio. Although the Company has been aggressively down-sizing its real estate exposures, commercial/industrial activity has yet to rebound sufficiently to replace loans secured by real property. At March 31, 2011, real estate loans, excluding residential mortgage loans representing permanent financing of owner-occupied dwellings and home equity lines of credit, were $848 million, or approximately 70 percent of total loans, representing a decline of $163 million, or 16.1 percent, from the $1.01 billion (67.6 percent of total loans) at March 31, 2010.

Non-owner occupied commercial real estate ("CRE") loans totaled $485 million as of March 31, 2011 (40.2 percent of total loans), a decline of $54.7 million over the past twelve months. Owner-occupied CRE loans were $274 million at first quarter-end 2011, a decline of $42.6 million over the same period. Vacant land, land development and construction ("C&D") loans, including both residential and commercial projects, totaled $90.0 million at March 31, 2011, down $66.1 million since first quarter-end 2010. The commercial and industrial ("C&I") segment of the loan portfolio was $248 million at March 31, 2011, a decline of approximately $104 million over the past twelve months, in large part reflecting the continued sluggishness in business activity and a corresponding reduction in accounts receivable and inventory financings, as well as significantly reduced requests for new equipment financing.

Mercantile's liquidity continues to improve as local deposits, especially interest-bearing checking and money market deposit accounts, increase in total dollars and as a percentage of total funding. As of March 31, 2011, total deposits were $1.25 billion, a decline of $20.2 million since year-end 2010 and a reduction of $346 million since year-end 2008. By comparison, local deposits increased $287 million over the past 27 months; they now represent 60.4 percent of total deposits compared to 29.4 percent at December 31, 2008. Approximately 86 percent, or $245 million, of local deposit growth since year-end 2008 occurred in the interest-bearing checking and money market deposit account categories, primarily reflecting new and innovative products, various deposit-gathering initiatives, and enhanced advertising campaigns that have attracted new deposits as well as transfers from maturing time deposit accounts.

Wholesale funds were $572 million, or 40.5 percent of total funds, as of March 31, 2011, compared to $1.41 billion, or 71.5 percent of total funds, as of December 31, 2008. The $843 million decline in wholesale funding reflects both the shift toward local deposits as well as a $650 million decline in total loans; this allowed Mercantile to reduce brokered deposits and FHLB advances as they matured over the past 27 months and to prepay certain FHLB advances during the fourth quarter of 2010.

Short-term investments, consisting of federal funds sold and interest-bearing bank deposits, averaged $57.3 million during the first quarter of 2011. In addition to its short-term investments, Mercantile has approximately $140 million of borrowing capacity through various established lines of credit to meet potential funding needs as well as about $45 million of U.S. Government securities available to sell if needed.

 Asset Quality

Nonperforming assets ("NPAs") at March 31, 2011 were $76.1 million, or 4.8 percent of total assets, compared to $86.1 million as of December 31, 2010, and $117.6 million as of March 31, 2010 (5.3 percent and 6.2 percent of total assets, respectively). This represents a decline of $10.0 million, or 11.6 percent, from the linked quarter-end and a decline of $41.5 million, or 35.3 percent, from the year-ago quarter-end.

Robert B. Kaminski Jr., Mercantile's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, added, "Nonperforming assets declined 35 percent from their high point of $117 million reported in the year-ago first quarter, to $76 million for the current quarter, the lowest level of the past two years. We have been consistent throughout this economic downturn in our application of Mercantile's credit administration and workout policies, and we don't plan to stop our vigilance as conditions improve. The lessons learned from this cycle have significantly influenced our lending strategies, which we believe will serve us well in future periods. We anticipate that asset quality should continue to improve as the economy gathers strength, with fewer additions to nonperforming assets."   

Nonperforming loans ("NPLs") totaled $60.2 million as of March 31, 2011, down $9.2 million and $34.3 million, respectively, from the linked quarter-end and the year-ago quarter-end, while foreclosed real estate and repossessed assets declined by $0.8 million and $7.2 million, respectively, from the linked and the year-ago quarter-ends. CRE loans represent 53.8 percent of NPLs, or $32.4 million. Investor-owned nonperforming CRE loans account for $22.5 million of total CRE nonperforming loans (4.7 percent of $485 million investor-owned CRE loans), while owner-occupied CRE loans account for $9.9 million (3.6percent of $274million owner-occupied CRE loans). Given the nature of collateral and the condition of the economy in general, and real estate markets specifically, progress toward resolution has been slow in both CRE categories, although some acceleration has been noted over the past few quarters.

Progress has also been achieved this past year toward resolution of nonperforming C&D loans, including both residential and commercial projects. C&D loans currently total $90.0 million, of which $14.4 million, or 16.0 percent, were nonperforming at March 31, 2011. This represents a substantial improvement since March 31, 2010, when $31.1 million, or 19.9 percent, of the $156 million C&D loan portfolio was nonperforming. Nonperforming C&I loans were $4.7 million as of March 31, 2011, a decline of $4.4 million since the year-ago quarter-end. Owner-occupied and rental residential NPLs were $8.6 million as of March 31, 2011, up $3.7 million since the year-ago quarter-end. 

During the 2011 first quarter, Mercantile added $3.9 million of NPAs to its problem asset portfolio and successfully disposed of $8.5 million through a combination of asset sales, principal pay-downs, and returns to performing status. Loan charge-offs were $4.8 million and foreclosed asset valuation write-downs were $0.6 million. In total, nonperforming assets decreased a net $10.0 million from year-end 2010.

Improvement in asset quality is even more apparent on a year-over-year basis. Since March 31, 2010, Mercantile added $41.5 million of problem assets to its NPA portfolio, successfully disposed of $47.7 million, and charged-off or wrote-down an additional $35.3 million. In total, NPAs declined a net $41.5 million since the year-ago quarter-end. By comparison, Mercantile added $103.9 million of NPAs, successfully disposed of $34.4 million, and charged-off or wrote-down an additional $35.7 million during the twelve-month period ended March 31, 2010. In total, NPAs increased a net $33.8 million from March 31, 2009 to March 31, 2010.

Net loan charge-offs were $5.4 million during the first quarter of 2011, or an annualized 1.8 percent of average loans, compared with $5.3 million (1.6 percent annualized) and $6.2 million (1.6 percent annualized) for the linked and prior-year quarters, respectively. Of the $6.0 million in gross charge-offs during the first quarter of 2011, $3.6 million was comprised of specific reserves that were created through provision expense in prior periods.

Capital Position

Shareholders' equity totaled $127 million as of March 31, 2011, a decrease of $11.4 million, or 8.3 percent, from March 31, 2010; however, regulatory capital ratios continue to improve. The Bank remains "well-capitalized" with a total risk-based capital ratio of 13.0 percent as of March 31, 2011 compared to 11.2 percent at March 31, 2010. At March 31, 2011, the Bank had approximately $41.1 million in excess of the 10.0 percent minimum regulatory threshold required to be considered a "well-capitalized" institution. Mercantile's total shares outstanding at first quarter-end were 8,601,117.

In conclusion, Mr. Price commented that Mercantile's turnaround is still in its early stages. "There is additional upside to be achieved from the continued reduction of problem assets, which should enhance our revenues, further decrease the loan loss provision, and reduce expenses associated with the administration and resolution of problem assets. These improvements in asset quality alone should contribute meaningfully to increased profitability as the economy continues to gather strength. We are also planning for any emerging opportunities in the changing commercial landscape of West and Central Michigan that might provide Mercantile with opportunities for future growth."

About Mercantile Bank Corporation

Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mercantile Bank Corporation is the bank holding company for Mercantile Bank of Michigan. Founded in 1997 to provide banking services to businesses, individuals, and governmental units, the Bank differentiates itself on the basis of service quality and the expertise of its banking staff. Mercantile has seven full-service banking offices in Grand Rapids, Holland and Lansing, Michigan. Mercantile Bank Corporation's common stock is listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol "MBWM."

Forward-Looking Statements

This news release contains comments or information that constitute forward-looking statements (within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995) that are based on current expectations that involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from the results expressed in forward-looking statements. Factors that might cause such a difference include changes in interest rates and interest rate relationships; demand for products and services; the degree of competition by traditional and nontraditional competitors; changes in banking regulation or actions by bank regulators; changes in tax laws; changes in prices, levies, and assessments; the impact of technological advances; governmental and regulatory policy changes; the outcomes of contingencies; trends in customer behavior as well as their ability to repay loans; changes in local real estate values; changes in the national and local economies; and other factors, including risk factors, disclosed from time to time in filings made by Mercantile with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mercantile undertakes no obligation to update or clarify forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

CONTACT: AT MERCANTILE BANK CORPORATION: Michael Price Chairman & CEO 616-726-1600 mprice@mercbank.com Charles Christmas Chief Financial Officer 616-726-1202 cchristmas@mercbank.com