BBCN Bancorp's (BBCN) CEO Kevin Kim on Q4 2015 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

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BBCN Bancorp, Inc. (BBCN)

Q4 2015 Earnings Conference Call

January 26, 2016, 12:30 PM ET

Executives

Kevin S. Kim - Chairman, President and CEO

Douglas J. Goddard - EVP and CFO

Kyu S. Kim - Senior EVP and COO

Jason K. Kim - EVP and Chief Lending Officer

Angie Yang - SVP, IR

Analysts

Aaron Deer - Sandler O'Neill & Partners

Matthew Clark - Piper Jaffray

Julianna Balicka - Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

Gary Tenner - D.A. Davidson

Operator

Good day, and welcome to the BBCN Bancorp Fourth Quarter 2015 Earnings Conference Call. All participants will be in listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions]. After today's presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. [Operator Instructions]. Please note this event is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Ms. Angie Yang, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Angie Yang

Thank you, Andrew. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us for the BBCN 2015 fourth quarter investor conference call.

Before we begin, I'd like to make a brief statement regarding forward-looking remarks. The call today may contain forward-looking projections regarding the future financial performance of the company and future events, including statements regarding the proposed transaction between BBCN Bancorp and Wilshire Bancorp such as the expected timelines for completing the transaction, future financial and operating results, benefits and synergies of the proposed transaction. These statements include forward-looking statements within the meaning of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and are not statements of historical fact.

We wish to caution you that such forward-looking statements reflect our expectations based on current expectations, estimates, forecast and projections, and management assumptions about the future performance of BBCN Bancorp and the combined entity with Wilshire Bancorp. These statements are not guarantees of future performance. Actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed or forecasted in such forward-looking statements.

The closing of the proposed transaction is subject to regulatory approvals, the approval of the shareholders of both BBCN Bancorp and Wilshire Bancorp, and other customary closing conditions. If the transaction is consummated, we may not achieve anticipated synergies, cost savings and other benefits from the transaction as a result of higher than anticipated transaction costs, deposit attrition, operating costs, customer loss and business disruption following the merger; including difficulties in integrating the two operations.

For a more complete list of descriptions of risks and uncertainties, please refer to BBCN Bancorp’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2014, as amended, and Wilshire Bancorp’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2014, as well as other filings made by BBCN and Wilshire with the SEC.

As usual, we have allotted one hour for this call. Presenting from the management side today will be Kevin Kim, BBCN Bancorp's Chairman and CEO; Kyu Kim, our Chief Operating Officer; and Doug Goddard, our Chief Financial Officer. Chief Credit Officer, Mark Lee and Chief Lending Officer, Jason Kim are also here with us today and will participate in the Q&A session.

With that, let me turn the call over to Kevin Kim. Kevin?

Kevin S. Kim

Thank you, Angie. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. As usual, I’ll begin with some brief comments on the quarter and the full year before asking Kyu and Doug to provide more detailed information on the financial results. When they are finished, I will wrap it up with some closing comments before we open up the call for questions. Let's begin.

We finished 2015 with a very strong quarter that reflects the effectiveness of our marketing efforts in driving quality balance sheet growth and the disciplined expense control that allows us to continue to operate with a high level of efficiency. We had an exceptionally strong quarter of loan production originating $550 million in new loans, which was $180 million more than our previous high for loan production in a quarter.

During all of 2015, we supported our customers and communities with $1.69 billion in new loans, which represents a 27% increase over new loan volumes in 2014. In terms of deposits, our total balances increased by approximately 5% during the quarter and 11% during the full year, and total assets increased 4% during the 2015 fourth quarter and 11% over the course of the year reflecting quality organic growth.

We maintained an active focus on cost management while at the same time making progress diversifying our product offering. This enabled us to continue delivering solid earnings performance. We generated $22.9 million in net income or $0.29 per share for the 2015 fourth quarter. The $1.4 million of merger-related expense in the fourth quarter lowered our net income by approximately $0.02 per share. For the full year, net income increased to $92.3 million or $1.16 per diluted common share.

Since BBCN was created through the historic merger vehicles four years ago, we have benefitted from the competitive advantages that exist upon being the largest Korean-American bank in the country. Comparing year-end 2015 with year-end 2011 results upon the merger completion, our loan portfolio has grown by 67%. Our total deposit base has increased 61%. Total assets have increased 52%. And as I stated on our last conference call, quarter-after-quarter we have been consistent in delivering strong financial performance, which has led to solid earnings growth year-after-year.

Now, let me turn the call over to Kyu to provide additional details on our business development efforts in the fourth quarter. Kyu?

Kyu S. Kim

Thank you, Kevin, and good morning, everyone. As Kevin mentioned, we had an exceptionally strong quarter of loan production for our 2015 fourth quarter. Commercial real estate loans accounted for 81% of the originations in the fourth quarter with balanced growth in all of our major property categories. Every major property category increased between 3% and 7% during the quarter with the exception of multifamily, which was up 11% off a smaller base in the other major portfolios.

We had another strong quarter in commercial loan production. We extended $105 million in commitments to commercial customers and funded $85 million in new C&I loans by the end of the quarter. Overall, we now have $1.1 billion in total credit commitments outstanding to commercial customers with our utilization rate of 50% on lines of credit at December 31, 2015. The C&I loans booked this quarter was broad based with no particular concentration in any one industry.

We continue to be very consistent with our SBA loan production. During the fourth quarter, we originated $82 million in SBA loans, of which $39 million were sellable 7(a) loans. Overall, our fourth quarter originations consisted of 53% fixed rate loans and 47% variable rate, fairly similar to what we saw in the preceding quarter. The average rate on new loan originations also remained fairly consistent increasing 1 basis point from the prior quarter to 4.24%.

Looking forward into the first quarter of 2016, our pipeline remains strong and it’s higher levels than where it was comparatively a year ago but understandably at a lower level than where we were entering the seasonally stronger second half of the year. Overall, for 2016, we expect to continue being an active lender in our market and are projecting organic loan growth to approach the low double digits.

With that, let me now turn the call over to Doug to go over our financial results in more detail. Doug?

Douglas J. Goddard

Thank you, Kyu. As usual, I will limit my discussion to just some of the more significant items in the quarter since we provide quite a bit of detail in our press release. Our net interest income increased by $3 million from the preceding third quarter. The increase was driven primarily by a 3% or $185 million increase in our average loan balances and to a lesser extent an increase in our securities portfolio.

Compared with the prior quarter, the impact of purchase accounting benefits was approximately $600,000 higher at $4.9 million but the impact on our net interest margin was fairly minor. Our core net interest margin was relatively stable from the prior quarter at 3.59% with not much change in our average loan yields or our cost of deposits excluding the impact of purchase accounting adjustments.

As I move to non-interest income I want to note that we have reclassified our OREO-related income and expense into one amount that is netted out under non-interest expense to be more consisting with the prevailing accounting treatments, and we’ve adjusted all the historical periods reported today to reflect this change.

Our net interest income declined $200,000 or 2% from the preceding third quarter. We had slight decreases in deposit service fees and gains on sales of SBA loans, which was partially offset by higher other income. We sold $41.9 million of SBA loans during the fourth quarter compared with $42.4 million last quarter. However, the gain on sale was lower due to a decline in the premium to 8.75%.

We had been seeing fairly consistent premiums in the 10% range for the past few years but the secondary markets softened a bit in the fourth quarter. In addition, the mix of loans that we sold this quarter included a number of larger SBA loans, which called for lower premiums than the average.

Turning to non-interest expense, there were minor differences between the quarters but most items were in the normal range of variation. Excluding the merger-related expense, our overall expense levels were essentially flat with the prior quarter. The most significant difference was in the aforementioned net OREO-related income expense lines as we had lower OREO rental income this quarter after the unusually large amount we recognized in the third quarter.

On a core basis, excluding the merger-related expense, we’re very pleased that we were able to maintain our expense levels essentially flat on a quarter-to-quarter basis while increasing total revenue by approximately 3.5%.

Moving on to asset quality, at December 31, our non-accrual loans were $40.8 million, up from $32.4 million at the end of the prior quarter. The increase was primarily due to one relationship with an export company consisting of a CRE loan and a C&I line of credit aggregating $11 million. We have established a specific reserve of $1.7 million related to this credit relationship. With additional guarantees from the parent company, we would not expect any further losses on this relationship beyond what we have already reserved.

Within the broader non-performing loan category, we had a $6.3 million decline in TDRs resulting from upgrades and payoffs. As a percentage of total loans or non-performing loans consisting of both non-accruals and TDRs dropped to 1.43% from 1.45% at the end of the prior quarter. Total classified loans were $204 million at December 31, up from $179 million at the end of the prior quarter. The increase was driven by some migration of credits from special mention to substandard.

We saw a $13 million decline of the broader category of total criticized and classified assets during the fourth quarter, which was driven by a low level of inflow into the special mention category. We had $557,000 in gross charge-offs during the fourth quarter and $955,000 in recoveries resulting in net recoveries of $398,000 for the quarter. This makes for three quarters in 2015 that we’ve been in a net recovery position and continues our very low loss experience. For the full year, we had net recoveries of $650,000.

We recorded a provision for loan losses of $4.9 million in the fourth quarter. There were three primary drivers of the provision this quarter. First, the overall rate of growth in the total loan portfolio was higher than normal at 18% on an annualized basis, which increased our reserve requirement. Second, the rate of growth in certain segments of the portfolio played a role in the provision requirement as well. And third, as I mentioned, we set aside a $1.7 million specific reserve for one relationship that migrated to non-accrual status.

With the provision recorded this quarter, both our overall allowance and our coverage ratio of non-performing loans increased from the end of the prior quarter. At December 31, our allowance to total loans was 1.22% while our coverage ratio of non-performing loans was 86%.

With that, let me turn the call back to Kevin.

Kevin S. Kim

Thank you, Doug. Since this is our year-end call, let me take a few minutes to discuss some of the highlights of another successful year for BBCN. 2015 represents a solid year of achievements marked by robust loan origination volumes, disciplined cost management and strategic business expansion.

For the full year, we were able to deliver total loan growth of 12%, which exceeded our initial guidance for the year of high single digits. We continue to build our commercial lending platform, which made a significant contribution to our overall loan originations last year.

We strengthened our leadership position in SBA lending with our best year ever. We finished at the top Korean-American bank in SBA originations when the SBA published its annual rankings for the fiscal year ended September 30. And we had an excellent start to the current fiscal year with our fourth quarter originations.

We also had a strong year of deposit gathering with our total deposits increasing 11%. We continue building the foundation for a more diversified business model in the future with investments in new areas, including equipment leasing, residential mortgage, credit cards and wealth management.

While these businesses are not large enough to have a meaningful impact on our financial results at this point, the financial strength we have as the largest Korean-American bank provides us with the ability to truly think long term and make investments in the business that will pay dividends in the years ahead.

And of course the most significant development of the year was the signing of our merger agreement with Wilshire Bancorp. We have been very pleased by the positive response that we have received from our shareholders and broader Korean-American community who have clearly understood the merits and strategic rationale for this merger.

In the four years since BBCN was created, we have benefitted from the competitive advantages that exist from being the premier Korean-American bank in the nation. From brand awareness and recruiting to higher lending limits and more resources available for investment in technology, being the clear leader in the Korean-American community has created growth opportunities for BBCN that neither of the predecessor companies would have had as standalone companies, as our financial performance clearly demonstrates that one plus one can equal greater than two.

With the combination of BBCN and Wilshire, we anticipate that the competitive advantages we have enjoyed to-date will be taken to an even greater level resulting in even more opportunities to profitably grow our franchise and create additional value for shareholders. The combined entity will enjoy a significantly stronger competitive position, with unrivaled leadership among our niche peers and unparalleled opportunity to cross-sell a comprehensive offering of products and services.

We will be the only Korean-American bank with a true national footprint and solid presence in all of the top geographic markets of our targeted communities. Undoubtedly, we are very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for the first and only superregional Korean-American bank. It is well understood that merger of equals are challenging but thankfully we have been through this before and we have succeeded. And with this experience we are working diligently together to ensure that our closings and integration process allows us to realize the synergies from this merger of equals as quickly as possible.

Since taking on the leadership at BBCN, I believe I have stated a number of times that these are exciting times for us at the company. With the planned combination of the top two lenders in the Korean-American banking space, we believe the prospects for improving upon the value proposition for our customers, employees and shareholders are significantly enhanced and we look forward to keeping everyone apprised of our progress.

With that, let’s open up the call to answer any questions you may have. Andrew, please open up the call.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

We will now being the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions]. The first question comes from Aaron Deer of Sandler O'Neill & Partners. Please go ahead.

Aaron Deer

Hi. Good morning, everyone.

Kevin S. Kim

Good morning.

Kyu S. Kim

Good morning.

Aaron Deer

So the growth again this quarter was very impressive and in fact the growth at Wilshire this quarter was also quite impressive. I guess in seeing that most of the balance sheet increases come in commercial real estate, I was hoping to get an update to go in light of the reiterated regulatory guidance of how you’re viewing the commercial real estate concentration and if you could give what you’re kind of estimated pro forma for the merger CRE to risk-based capital ratio is going to be?

Kevin S. Kim

Good morning, Aaron. I don’t have the pro forma CRE concentration against the risk-based capital right now. I had it but it’s off my head, so I can provide that offline. Regards to the new guidance, actually it’s not a new guidance. It’s as of December 2015. That was the reminder on the interagency guidance at December 2006. And all the recommended proxies and procedures have been already incorporated into our policy and procedures, and I don’t think it’s going to have a meaningful impact to what we do day-to-day. The focus is more on the measuring, monitoring side of the ledgers.

Aaron Deer

Okay. So you wouldn’t anticipate any need to dial back growth on the CRE side and maybe strengthen our foots in the C&I or other categories?

Kevin S. Kim

It is true. We have to continue to focus on C&I growth and continue to invest in that arena. At the same time, CRE continues to be a bread and butter for our institution and our space.

Aaron Deer

Okay. And then I guess relatedly with all the focus on the merger, wanted to instead maybe get an update on some of your other lending initiatives and leasing credit card and wealth management and maybe talk a little bit about how those initiatives are progressing?

Jason K. Kim

Good morning, Aaron; Jason Kim here. As you mentioned about the three initiatives that we started about a year ago, let me give you an update on the equipment [ph] leasing business. We are seeing a lot of interest within our customer base and originations are currently running at about $45 million per quarter range. Based on the volume of opportunities that we are seeing, we expect this business to ramp up nicely this year. And in the credit card business, we are adding about 1,000 new cardholders per quarter. It’s a nice mix of consumer business accounts and the outstanding balances are not significant as we are seeing majority of our customers are paying off the balances each month. But we are seeing a lot of transaction activities, particularly from the business accounts. So the interchange fees of non-interest income are ramping on nicely and we expect to see a pretty good boost in that area. On the residential mortgage side, Southern California and the Midwest are fully up and running and we posted about $40 million in origination in the fourth quarter. We’re currently in the process of launching the New York and New Jersey operations and the final launch in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California at the beginning of next quarter. So we expect to see a steady acceleration in volume quarter-over-quarter in 2016.

Douglas J. Goddard

Aaron, following up on your first question in regards to the pro forma, I don’t have the exact figure but my recollection is that on a combined pro forma basis, CRE concentration actually goes down slightly because Wilshire is slightly less CRE sensitive.

Aaron Deer

Okay, terrific. Thanks for taking my questions this morning.

Kyu S. Kim

Aaron, in addition to what Jason gave to you, I would give you a little update on wealth management offerings.

Aaron Deer

Great. Thank you, Kyu.

Kyu S. Kim

It’s important to know that our strategy with our new business lines is to cross-sell these products to our existing customer base to be good [ph] client relationship and I think we are meeting that goal continuously. And for wealth management side, we launched the product last April and we’re actually pleased to see that we are getting increasing number of reports from our branches. And we did meet our projection in 2015 and we hope to before the improvement in 2016 and I do have confidence that we will do so.

Aaron Deer

As that business grows, we start sharing what the assets under management are.

Douglas J. Goddard

Yes, at some point as it becomes more significant. I mean that is not a meaningful number really to our disclosures today and as Kyu mentioned, our near-term value is cross selling our value to customers. But over the next year or so that will be a growing AUM that we’ll probably start disclosing.

Aaron Deer

Right, okay. Thank you very much.

Kyu S. Kim

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]. The next question comes from Matthew Clark of Piper Jaffray. Please go ahead.

Matthew Clark

Hi. Good morning, everyone.

Kevin S. Kim

Good morning.

Douglas J. Goddard

Good morning.

Kyu S. Kim

Good morning.

Matthew Clark

Maybe just first on reserves, obviously you mentioned a portion of that was related to a specific reserve, you had also faster growth this quarter. So I think it’s fair to assume that that provision will come in a little bit here going forward. But just in thinking about coverage ratios, the reserve to loan ratio in particular for legacy BBCN, is it fair to assume that we’ve troughed here at 122 of total loans or do you think there might be some additional release going forward?

Douglas J. Goddard

I don’t think it goes back dramatically lower but I don’t think it’s an absolute bottom.

Matthew Clark

Okay, okay. And then just within the non-interest expense run rate just want to make sure that that’s a good run rate going forward and thinking about seasonality also looking at the credit-related expense line that being down over $1 million, whether or not that’s sustainable or not?

Douglas J. Goddard

Yes, the credit-related expense is never going to be straight-line, it’s going to bounce up and down. But overall if I look at all the pluses and minuses that went in during the quarter, this was a pretty normal quarter as far as expense run rate.

Matthew Clark

Okay. And then just on deposit costs, up a few basis points this quarter, I think to 60 basis points all-in. Can you give us a sense for the posted rate on your new deposits, just trying to get a sense for whether or not we might see a continued creep up in deposit costs or not?

Douglas J. Goddard

Yes, we’ve been watching that very closely particularly since the Fed rates in December. We’re not seeing much of an increase in poster rates and we didn’t really see a lot of change in rates with the Fed move [ph]. What we did really see is in the three months before that a lot more pressure in terms of promotional pricing. And that’s been causing a one or two basis point creep in our deposit cost for the last nearly five or six months. And I think that’s still the direction we’re in with a one or two basis point creep at the current rate. We probably saw the trough in that about six months ago in terms of our absolute low in this part of the cycle.

Matthew Clark

Okay, great. And then maybe just on the margin, if I may, any outlook there? Any update on your comfort with the pro forma margin with Wilshire both on a reported and core basis? Obviously, some benefit but just curious if you have any update on that front.

Douglas J. Goddard

No, no update on the projections with Wilshire. We’ve been talking for the last – gosh, it feels like forever that we’ll still have some margin pressure because of the loan originating in the low 420s is lower than our portfolio. But that pace of margin oppression [ph] has been very, very slow and I think it has really slowed going into the first quarter if we’re talking about 2 basis points give or take.

Matthew Clark

Got it. Thank you.

Operator

The next question comes from Julianna Balicka of KBW. Please go ahead.

Julianna Balicka

Good morning.

Kevin S. Kim

Good morning.

Douglas J. Goddard

Good morning.

Kyu S. Kim

Good morning.

Julianna Balicka

A couple of questions, if I may. One, to follow up on the deposit question, you had said that you’re looking at a one or two basis point deposit creep per quarter kind of due to promotional pricing pressure. What is your expectation post the Wilshire deal closed? Is that pressure going to abate given your new balance sheet or what are your kind of thoughts of post close deposit pricing movements?

Douglas J. Goddard

You want me to tell the future. All other things being equal, there is one less competitor. I think it’s still a very – it’s less us competing with Wilshire, it’s more the mindset of the consumer basis that we’re in a rising rate environment just made it a little bit tough on the margin. Would you agree, Kyu? Yes, Kyu is nodding. She agrees. But yes, it helps a little bit but I wouldn’t look for that to some big windfall.

Julianna Balicka

Okay. And in regards to your merger with Wilshire, what has been their response in your market by your smaller competitors in regards to their behavior as far as deposits or loans or employees, et cetera?

Kevin S. Kim

Well, let me first cover the employee part. This is Kevin. Our competitors are always targeting BBCN’s top bankers, so that’s not anything new for us. With the prospect of being a banker for the only superregional Korean-American bank in the country, I think there are greater than the usual competitive barriers that any offer would have to overcome to steal our employees. We believe the combined company will certainly provide the best opportunities for the top performing bankers in the market, so I don’t see anything really different in terms of employee recruiting before and after the merger announcement.

Julianna Balicka

And in regards to your competitors’ behavior as far as loan or deposit growth pricing I mean?

Douglas J. Goddard

I’ll speak for Kyu here too because I think Kyu and I usually agree. It was competitive before, it was competitive after the announcement. I don’t think there’s been any fee change caused by the deal.

Kyu S. Kim

Yes, even after the merger our custom base doesn’t change overnight. So we will continue to be nurturing our customers and I mean we will do everything to strengthen our position. So I’m sure they will try to steal away our customers, employees and all that but I don’t think we will lose our customer base nor the employees to our smaller competitors.

Julianna Balicka

Okay. And then maybe if I can switch on the SBA gain in premiums you had remarked this quarter. This past quarter you had some larger loans that you sold and also premiums have tried to come down a little. What is your outlook quarter-to-date as far as the trends are going on right now in SBA and your thoughts for 2016?

Jason K. Kim

Hi, Julianna. Well, actually this question was raised last quarter in the call and we kind of discussed about kind of a stable market from the perspective as the expectation from the secondary market analysts. There were correct for the last three years, exception of fourth quarter in 2015. And I think we need to probably see a couple more quarters to really better understand the clarity of the secondary market. So maybe I’ll keep you updated in our next call.

Julianna Balicka

That sounds good. Thank you very much.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]. The next question comes from Gary Tenner of D.A. Davidson. Please go ahead.

Gary Tenner

Thanks. Good morning. Just had a follow up on the provision comments for the quarter, you mentioned the overall pace of growth as well as the specific reserve and then the pace of growth in some specific segments. I’m just taking a look at where most of the growth came from in the quarter. It was in the commercial real estate segment and pretty ratable across that segment. So I wonder if you could just comment on which of the underlying portfolio of segments are requiring a larger reserve today.

Kevin S. Kim

I can address that. If you see our press release table, retail had a significant growth in this quarter – retail commercial properties had a significant growth and that has [indiscernible] to our reserve requirement.

Gary Tenner

Okay. And is that – do you typically provide at a higher level for that or is there anything in the underlying environment that’s driving the higher reserve?

Douglas J. Goddard

No, it’s really more a matter of – most of our reserve is based on qualitative factors now and you have to have a consistent and directionally correct methodology. And our consistent methodology is to assign higher loss factors in periods where we have above normal run rate growth rates. So by definition in our methodology of portfolios growing at an annualized rate of 15% to 20% rather than 8% to 10% is riskier for that quarter and it gets added to the qualitative factors.

Kevin S. Kim

And just a sheer volume drive, the loan outstanding growth has the additional impact to the reserve requirement.

Gary Tenner

I’m sorry. I missed that last comment. Can you repeat that?

Kevin S. Kim

The qualitative factor is also outstanding driven. So as we cross over $6 billion in loan outstanding, it requires a higher reserve requirement.

Gary Tenner

Okay. Thanks very much.

Operator

This concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to management for any closing remarks.

Kevin S. Kim

Thank you, Andrew. Once again, thank you all for joining us today and we look forward to speaking with you next quarter. Bye everyone.

Operator

The conference has now concluded. Thank you for attending today’s presentation. You may now disconnect.

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