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CoBiz Financial Inc. (NASDAQ:COBZ)

Q3 2008 Earnings Call

October 24, 2008 11:00 am ET

Executives

Steve Bangert - Chairman and CEO

Jon Lorenz - President and Vice Chairman

Lyne Andrich - EVP and CFO

Analysts

Ben Crabtree - Stifel Nicolaus

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

Jeff Davis - Wolf River Capital

Operator

Good morning. My name is [Cheri], and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the CoBiz Financial third quarter Earnings Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers' remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions).

Thank you. Mr. Bangert, you may begin your conference.

Steve Bangert

Thank you. I appreciate everybody tuning into our third quarter conference call. If you saw last night, we reported earnings of $0.18, which is really right on top of what we had reported during the second quarter.

I thought there were several unusual items in the quarter. I think if you look at our earnings in that, we had a small Fannie Mae preferred stock that we booked a one-time loss on it. That stock we acquired when we bought the Arizona bank back in 2001, so very small investment, but it was once in a while the short fall to our earnings of this quarter.

There is also $0.02 loss on the sales of OREO property that was sold during the quarter, so that $0.03 was included in this quarter. The property actually was sold in October, but it shows up as an OREO in our results there, but we did back the $0.02 loss into the third quarter numbers on that.

So overall though, I thought it was a real strong quarter earnings for the franchise, primarily coming out the bank, and that the bank continues to surprise us what has certainly been a challenging operating environment for financial institutions today. But, I think the bank's core earnings continue to do very, very well for us.

One of the highlights for us during the third quarter, I think you will see that we announced that we closed on over $20 million of subordinated debentures. Those were primarily sold to our customer base here at CoBiz and that raised our capital levels sort of Tier 1 at the bank levels 10.61%, total capital, 11.86%.

At the holding company it's 9.75% Tier 1, total capital over 12%, so we are delighted with that. Customers continue to have an awful lot confidence in CoBiz, and CoBiz continues to perform very well. As I mentioned earlier, it has been a difficult environment to operate in.

The second quarter also has been highlighted by, you will see the difference when you compare the two quarters investment banking activity was down $0.05, so there is a pretty big swing in investment banking activity that was early cap offset with some core earnings coming out of the bank as the bank's core earnings continues to grow and the bank had an exceptional quarter.

And loan growth of the bank was about a little over $40 million, so slower than what we reported during the quarter. Second quarter, if you remember was just really a tremendous quarter for us. But still, 14.5% percent over the last year. And most of that activity is coming out over the C&I portfolio or the term real estate portfolio that's tied to that same C&I customer.

And that primarily, as they are out of the Colorado market, although we have continued to show some growth in the Arizona market also, I think for the quarter and really for the last year, really the challenge for us as a franchise has been on the deposit side. Deposits for the second quarter were up over $90 million. That really was the result of those replacings of those broker deposits that we ran off during the second quarter, if you remember.

During the second quarter, the broker deposits costs were out of line relative to other borrowings that we had available to us, so we paid those off as the broker deposit market became a little bit more rationale. We went back into that market in the third quarter, so the majority of the growth that you saw on the deposit side during the quarter really came out of that broker deposit market.

We are not a big user of broker deposits, they historically make up around 5% to 7.5% of our overall deposit portfolio, and I think that's about where they are today. It was just unusual during the second quarter if we ransom some of the money off.

During the quarter we continue to build the reserve, I think we see the reserves up there 1.40, from 1.10 a year ago. We think that's a prudent thing to do. I've got Jon Lorenz in the room, the CEO of the bank and I'll be turning it over to Jon here in a few minutes, because I think most people want to hear what's happening within the loan portfolio. But I also have Lyne Andrich, my CFO here, so if there's any questions about the financials that any of you have, Lyne is prepared to answer those also.

Looking at some of the other businesses, there, we really didn't get much contribution from our fee-based side. In fact, there was a small loss really kind of as I had mentioned earlier, highlighted by the Investment Banking Group.

On the investment banking side, as we look at the numbers yesterday, I think that there is a good chance that over the next two quarters there is kind of more of a breakeven type opportunity for us. I just don't know how that's going to fall out between first quarter of next year versus fourth quarter of this year. As all of you can expect, it's a very difficult time to get transactions closed. We still do have a number of transactions that we're pretty confident will be closing.

Our biggest concern really would be on the investment banking side would be what's going to happen with new activity as far as new engagements in that. Activity in that area has dried up over the last 30 days and that, so we were watching that closely today because that could have an impact towards the second half of next year for our Investment Banking sector.

On the Insurance side. Insurance revenues continue to grow for us. They weren't quite as big as they were during the second quarter. Fourth quarter traditionally is a pretty good quarter for the insurance side. We would anticipate that again this year.

On the Investment Advisory side. It's a very difficult time right now. The market is down. Those assets that we're managing are obviously going to be down. But I think, overall, the performance of both those -- all three of our companies within the investment management side has been relatively good. And so, we really haven't lost any customers. But it's a very difficult time for us to be bringing new money through the door. And so it's more of a no growth area of the company as we speak today.

But as I look at the overall four franchises, as I mentioned earlier, I am feeling very good about this happening at the bank level in that. Our pre-tax pre-provision numbers continues to grow. We're looking forward when our credit losses start to stabilize and actually decrease. I mean they actually seem like they have already stabilized as far as asset quality issues are concerned in that.

And I'll let Jon talk about that a little bit more. But the core income for the bank was up considerably during the quarter. I was real pleased with that. Even the fee income from the bank was extremely strong.

Our issues still continue to be in the Arizona portfolio primarily. I don't think that they have gotten any worse. I think they are pretty consistent once were reported nine to 10 months ago now. It hasn't been any major surprises, but it certainly is a challenge for our management team.

With that, I'll probably turn it over to Jon and let Jon talk a little bit about what's happening in the portfolio today.

Jon Lorenz

Thanks, Steve. As Steve was saying with the core bank earnings up $0.03, we thought it was a very good quarter for the bank. And that in light is still fairly got [hefty] provision expense. I would comment on provision expense. However, that at least was down from the second quarter by about $300,000.

So, directionally, we think we're starting to move in the right direction, albeit, not as fast as we might like. But nonetheless, we do see, at least at this juncture, provision expense stabilizing and hopefully, beginning at a move down in subsequent quarters.

Directionally, the two markets that we're in, I would say, not changed too much from over the last quarter. The most recent job growth numbers showing Colorado is still hanging in on the top 10 states in terms of job growth, up still close to 2% in job growth this year.

And while Arizona is losing quite a few jobs, they are still seeing population growth. Projection is still were about a 2% growth in population in Arizona for 2008 comparable numbers for 2009. So I think Arizona appears to be stabilizing to some degree and Colorado is still hanging in there pretty well generally.

As to the real estate market in Arizona, land values do continue to deteriorate, albeit, it is at a slowing rate we're probably seeing depending on where the property is located in Arizona somewhere from a 1% to 3% monthly decline or deterioration in value is still occurring, but definitely at a slowing rate, which would indicate, hopefully, we're getting close to a bottom.

We're continuing to see strong demand for finished lots. I think that's positive. We're seeing home builders come back into the market and seeing a need for finished lots over the next 12 months to 18 months. That was the case certainly with one of the OREO properties we sold that was 67 finished lots.

We are definitely seeing a slowdown in commercial real estate in Arizona. Fortunately, we don't have big exposure in our commercial real estate portfolio in Arizona. So we don't see that directly impacting Arizona business bank to any degree, but certainly, there is slowing throughout the real estate markets in Arizona today.

On the other side with Colorado, residential real estate is the softest part of our economy. But, overall, the real estate markets are quite stable. I think Denver probably has one of the strongest commercial real estate markets in the nation today. Stable rates in occupancy is hanging in there and we're not seeing significant increases in vacancy numbers.

So I feel pretty good that Colorado is well-positioned in the Commercial Real Estate sector to whether the downturn and we don't have much new supply, new product coming on line. So that that should hopefully remain relatively stable as we move into 2009.

So, again overall, the markets appear to be stabilizing. I think is one of the questions we get is movement into our commercial portfolio in terms of stress as to the Colorado commercial portfolio. I think as most of you will recall, we went through a pretty tough time in Colorado from 2001 to 2005. We're very slow coming out of the last recession and maintained very strong asset quality in the Colorado portfolio during that period.

So, it's certainly a big question mark, how much and what degree of damage has been done to the general economy with the events of the last 60 days. Certainly, our customers are going to be impacted by that. But for the most part, we bank the stronger businesses in Colorado. They are well-capitalized. They have the capital cushion in place to withstand some downturns, withstand some losses, if that's the case.

And unlike the real estate portfolio, we are going to have situations where our commercial customers' maybe losing money, but the bank is not going to lose any money on its loans to those companies, because they are well-capitalized companies. Different from real estate, where as we've seen dramatic deteriorations in value. We do feel the direct impact of that on the real estate portfolio.

This credit crunch, we think the overall composition of the portfolio continuing to move in the right direction. Most of the growth in the third quarter was on our owner-occupied real estate, which we tide directly to our C&I portfolio. And we are continuing to see good opportunities for growth in owner-occupied real estate.

Most of the other sources and financing options have now dried up in the market, so those companies are coming to us for their plan expansion as they are doing it or refinance of their existing properties where they have their businesses, so we think that will continue to be an opportunity for us.

And I would say that I think pricing across the board, one of the benefits of the period we are going through with the lack of credit, lack of financing options, we are definitely seeing improvement in pricing. Probably 50 to 75 basis points improvement and more than that in terms of any new real estate loans that we are doing, so hopefully that will have somewhat of a positive impact on margin as we move into 2009 also.

Deposits are tough, they will continue to be tough, we are seeing a lot of volatility. But since the end of the third quarter, it seems like things have stabilized at least for right now and deposits are pretty stable, and we are working hard to make sure deposits don't leave our balance sheet. And in a minimum, we keep them in our CDARS CD portfolio. And hopefully migrate back into our core deposits products overtime in the future, so it's kind of a summary of where the bank is.

Steve Bangert

I think you can tell, by Jon's overview that, we are pretty positive about how we have performed really in both markets during this year and that and are encouraged by the some of the opportunities that we are seeing today that we wouldn't normally get to see.

Jon mentioned the interest net margin compression I think we actually are starting to see some optimism. We think that there maybe optimism to pick up margin on a going-forward basis. Certainly, number of loan transactions that I have seen recently, the bank has been able to get much healthier margins than what we traditionally have.

As we migrated some our customers into the CDARS program in short-term. We typically have done that but at a much at a much lower cost and what they were on our balance sheet, so in the short-term that's been a positive. But in long-term, we would like to get them back on our balance sheet. And Jon and I have spent an awful lot of time it seem like last quarter handling our customers and returning phone calls and that but that seems to have stopped.

The announcement of the TARP program seems to have settled in the customer base, and so we are feeling pretty optimistic and good about with the next few quarters to show for CoBiz.

With that I'm just going to open it up for questions and remind you that I have Jon Lorenz, the CEO in the room with me, CEO of the bank, and Lyne Andrich, my CFO here, so all players are available.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions). Your first question comes from Ben Crabtree of Stifel Nicolaus.

Ben Crabtree - Stifel Nicolaus

Thanks. Good morning.

Steve Bangert

Good morning, Ben.

Ben Crabtree - Stifel Nicolaus

I guess, Jon, when you were talking about the Arizona portfolio, you were talking about the weakness being, although that was, say, the relative chunk being much greater in the finished lots, and just interested in terms of your land acquisition, your overall construction development portfolio in that market. How much of it would qualify as finished lots, and how much of it would be just kind of raw land?

Jon Lorenz

I gave you exact number, Ben, but I guess, more than two-thirds would be finished lots and maybe third raw land.

Ben Crabtree - Stifel Nicolaus

And what type of portfolio are we talking about again? Sorry.

Jon Lorenz

We've got a little over $100 million.

Ben Crabtree - Stifel Nicolaus

Okay.

Jon Lorenz

And that might come down. The overall real construction and probably loan portfolio came down probably about $10 million in the third quarter, so it is starting to contract. And not just through charge-offs, but actually through pay down.

Ben Crabtree - Stifel Nicolaus

Okay, and then I guess as I recall over the last couple of years, you were trying to make a significant move into other commercial real estate probably existing commercial real estate and commercial in Phoenix.

It sounds as all the commercial real estate might not be a great place to going now, but just kind of an update on how you are doing in the commercial side and I guess maybe a comment about what's happening to the competitive environment there, are you seeing some the big guys pull into the shelves?

Jon Lorenz

Yeah. On the commercial side in terms of our direct exposure as to commercial construction, we've got about $40 million of total exposure, but most of that or a good portion of that is in pre-lease construction.

So, again fairly, fairly small numbers overall in terms of commercial real estate. I think probably the good thing, Ben, is that we embarked on expanding into that commercial real estate portfolio relatively, reasonably and that as the market has soften, we've gotten more conservative and more restrictive on our lending and commercial real estate too. So we didn't have time to accumulate much in terms of real estate law, I mean, in terms of commercial real estate law.

As to the competitors, I can tell you, they are definitely burdened with a lot more problems in the Real Estate sector than we are today. We're seeing them really not doing any real estate lending in the market, very preoccupied with working out a problem, still saddled with a lot to come from what we're hearing in terms of their real estate portfolio. So, I think they are going to be distracted for a good period of time to come, probably through most of 2009, which as I said before, we think will opportunities for us.

We saw two credits in loan committing this week that were situations at National Bank or NMI down there. They had very solid credits that just aren't getting much attention today.

Analyst

Okay, great. Thanks.

Operator

Your next question comes from Jason Werner of Howe Barnes.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

Good morning.

Jon Lorenz

Good morning, Jason.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

My first question, I was kind of hoping you could detail what went into non-performing status in the quarter both in Arizona and in Colorado.

Jon Lorenz

Sure. As to the overall non-performing loans were up about $4 million for the month and we're about $8 million on non-performing assets. As to that non-performing loans, we've about $13 million in Arizona, $11 million in Colorado.

We had two residential properties move into non-performing status. One is shown at that 90-day past due loan of about $1.7 million and another non-performing loan of about $2.7 million. So, about $4.4 million of that -- and most of that increase really came out of those two credits in the Colorado residential construction portfolio.

We now have or did have four OREO properties. I think it was mentioned in the press release. We sold one the properties subsequent to quarter end. So we ended the quarter at $7 million. And OREO properties were now at $5.2 million.

Three properties and one of those properties is about three quarters of that $5.2 million number. So, basically, one relatively large property which is finished lots and two small properties in OREO.

So, as you look at it, we still have not seen a significant amount of loans migrate into the OREO category. I think you will see more of that going forward. But as we said, we think we're operating within a very manageable range today, both with our non-performing loans as well as our OREO.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

You guys have been talking the last couple of quarters about a group of acquisition [take up] loans and the Arizona that you were concerned with. I am just curious how much of that has already moved over and is that number that you are concerned with, has that grown or is it still the kind of same number?

Jon Lorenz

It stayed pretty stable. So I think, what we've seen and we talked given the $39 million range there. And what we have seen is that some have moved out of that number, others have moved in, but we're still seeing the overall number to be pretty stable and not increasing at this point.

We're making steady progress at resolving those problems. But we've got a couple of quarters, two or three quarters ahead of us yet as we continue to work through them. But we're not seeing that pool of problem assets increase appreciably.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

How much of that $30 million is included in the non-performing?

Jon Lorenz

Yes, most of that, again, we have got $13 million in non-performing loans in Arizona. So, I think, you've got about half, little less than half of it. That pool of problems we've identify are already currently in non-performing status.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

[Aren't they] included in the OREOs (inaudible).

Jon Lorenz

Yeah, I was just talking about the non-performing and it, as to OREO, all of that is Arizona. The one large property I mentioned that's finished lots and the two smaller properties. So that $5.2 million is all Arizona. So, if you add that to the $13 million, you are at $18 million.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

Okay. What's the status of the [three old] properties who have filed for bankruptcies during the quarter?

Jon Lorenz

That's actually moving forward in a very positive fashion at this point. We received a paydown right after the end the quarter of the quarter of, I think, about $500,000. And we've got another $2 million pay down that we're expecting over the next week.

So, again, it's right here on markets, I think there are some perception that no homes are being sold down there today and that's not the case. This is a well-located builder in this property that we have. That's consistently taking down lots actually will be ahead of schedule with the $2 million takedown that we are expecting over the next couple of weeks, and those lots are selling through very well at this point.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

When did you receive the $5 million pay down?

Jon Lorenz

$500 million pay down. Right after quarter end, and then we are expecting another $200 million over the next two weeks.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

Okay. Is that still current?

Steve Bangert

But none of that was in third quarter. Yeah. And it's all still current and accelerated on the pay down schedule.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

Okay. And just to clarify what you said earlier. Some of the increase this quarter was up Colorado residential construction loan?

Jon Lorenz

Yes.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

Okay.

Jon Lorenz

And so with those properties, both of those are residential properties and roughly $4.4 million that I mentioned is two properties, so there maybe some minor lots potential. But we don't see any significant lot potential in either of those two houses, duplexes that we have in the Denver real estate category.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

Okay. And then also another question on the fee income, the other line item was up. There was $1.8 million. I am just kind of curious, does that reflect some activities from the capital markets real estate group that you got from LaSalle?

Lyne Andrich

No, it doesn't. What's really kind of showing there is, we had some income that we recognized on the investments and some mezzanine funds that we had. So that was over $1 million that we saw in the third quarter. As well as we have had a lot of success in selling interest rate swaps to our customers, so we had about another $350,000 in the quarter from the sale of interest rate swaps. So those were the two big items that may close to the barriers.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

How has that capital markets group done this year?

Steve Bangert

Well, the capital markets group. Really, we haven't had the market group in six months now?

Jon Lorenz

Yeah. Probably six months.

Steve Bangert

Yeah.

Jon Lorenz

Basically, what happened, Jason, is you come back into the market continue to change the number of participants for doing syndicated deals as virtually dried up, so the fellow that headed that group for us that came out of LaSalle was offered an opportunity to open up basically a real estate production office here in Denver for private bank out of Chicago where most or a lot of the Southeast people who have migrated to.

And I think for both of us, it seemed like better fit for him. It was very amicable, but private bank has a larger lending limit in terms of what they can do internally than we do by about double. In today's market, we just weren't seeing the loan activity.

So actually that's a fairly significant expense savings now that we've moved off our statements in terms of that group. And I think given today's environment, that's probably net positive.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

Okay. At solvent, I mean how they did that. I didn't realize it was your guys. Okay.

Steve Bangert

Yeah, those were our guys.

Jason Werner - Howe Barnes

Well, thank you.

Steve Bangert

Sure.

Operator

Your next question comes from Jeff Davis of Wolf River Capital.

Jeff Davis - Wolf River Capital

Good morning. I joined the call late, if you covered this, my apologies. Three questions on related, one, it looks the rate on the sub debt that you issued. Secondly, interest in taking down preferred from the Treasury and the TARP. And then the margin last quarter of [4.13], Fed, looks like they are going to cut rates next week. But I know you've got a lot of moving parts, so now the deposits move around. Your thoughts on how the margin plays out over the next few quarters.

Steve Bangert

Yeah. Of not (inaudible) I said, the sub debt was a 9% coupon 10-year term, five-year no call. So we thought it was attractive for us, for our customers. I mean there was an attractive investment alternative for them too.

On the preferred, the TARP transaction, we're certainly looking at that as we get to know what the terms are going to be on it. They are little bit better. I think that's how now we think is pretty attractive. That will allow us to even be little more aggressive, possibly even be involved in some acquisition activity that might play out over the next couple of year in that.

So the TARP is something we are taking very seriously. And I think today as we look at it, we're likely to participate. I don't know at what level, but it seems like very reasonably priced capital that for a growing institution like us, we can certainly use. So we're very excited about that.

When it comes to the net interest margin, yeah, we're anticipating further drops also. We have continued to put on interest rates swaps on our own balance sheet in order to kind of hold our margin in anticipation of further easing activities. So, I think we'll do a relatively good job of holding the margin certainly over the next six month even with another decrease in that.

I think we're set up to do that. We are naturally because the franchise is naturally asset-sensitive. But with some interest rate swaps and some other methods, we try to eliminate as much of that risk as possible. And so, I don't think it's going to have a significant impact on us.

And we have been able to drive down our borrowing cost and obviously the money has become – our alternative borrowings have become much cheaper over the last 30 to 60 days, than what we were paying the last quarter.

So overall, we've been taking a pretty close look at that. But I think we're pretty comfortable that we'll keep that margin within a relatively tight band that we have been operating in. And that's really been between a 4% to 4.20% now for a couple of years anyway.

Jeff Davis - Wolf River Capital

When funds when to 1% back in '03, was the margin comparable that time?

Steve Bangert

Yeah, actually the market was a little bit wider at that time, but it was primarily because we were quite a bit smaller, yet. And as we kind of moved up market, the bank has gotten bigger. The margins of some of our new business hasn't been as healthy. But, now, we're back to healthy margin on new business. And I am pretty comfortable that we'll be able to hang in that range.

Jeff Davis - Wolf River Capital

Okay. And then the last question. In terms the majors in your market key USB, any notable pullback, I mean that the larger ones in terms of lending. Key one in particular?

Steve Bangert

Yeah, Jon will probably speak to that.

Jon Lorenz

We really don't see key much out in Arizona. And we don't see much of them in the Colorado market place. I couldn't really say if they pulled back or not. I think most of the banks, we've seen pulling back are the smaller community banks, US banks. And Wells Fargo still seems to be active, but I think we're seeing them out there with stronger pricing also. So I think it's probably net positive in the pricing or in the market from a pricing standpoint to that.

Jeff Davis - Wolf River Capital

All right. Thank you very much.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]. You have a follow-up question from Ben Crabtree of Stifel Nicolaus.

Ben Crabtree - Stifel Nicolaus

Great. The conversation about the departing LaSalle guys reminded me of a question I wanted to ask you about the salary number. If my number is correct, you had a fairly notable drop in comp expense from the second to the third quarter. And was that related to those people? Is this a good base going forward or is there something unusual going on here?

Lyne Andrich

Ben, no, the decrease you saw in the link quarter basis wasn't attributed to LaSalle. They actually left in the first quarters of the year. And so really what attributed to the third quarter decrease was effectively variable compensation related to not only Investment Banking bonus has been down and our insurance side, the commissionable dollars there going down, but also just discretionary bonuses.

So at this point as we look forward, the core salary, you have a good run rate now. If our fee-based companies pick up in the fourth quarter as we expect in terms of the insurance revenues, you'll see that increase proportionately. But then everything else should hold itself.

Ben Crabtree - Stifel Nicolaus

Right. Okay, thank you.

Steve Bangert

Okay. Thank you, Ben.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time.

Steve Bangert

Okay. Well, I just want to thank everybody for again participating in our third quarter conference call. I think you can see that we're relatively optimistic about what's going on within the franchise right now. I think we're feeling that there is going to be an awful lot of opportunities over the next year for CoBiz and that we should be able to continue to improve on that momentum in our core earnings of the franchise as we progress. If any of you have any questions for any of us, Jon, Lyne or myself, we're always available. Thanks again for your interest in CoBiz. Bye.

Operator

This concludes today's conference call. You may now disconnect.

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Source: CoBiz Financial Inc. Q3 2008 Earnings Call Transcript
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