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Executives

Christopher C. Spencer - Chief Financial Officer, Chief Accounting Officer, Sr. VP, Chief Financial Officer of First State Bank, Sr. VP of First State Bank of First State Bank

H. Patrick Dee - Chief Operating Officer, Exec. VP, Treasurer, Director, Member of Exec. Committee, Pres of the First State Bank and Chief Operating Officer of First State Bank

Pam Smith, Chief Credit Officer

Michael R. Stanford - Chief Exec. Officer, Pres, Director, Member of Exec. Committee, Chief Exec. Officer of First State Bank of First State Bank

Analysts

Hugh Miller - Sidoti & Co. LLC

Peyton Green - FTN Midwest Securities Corp.

First State Bancorp. (OTC:FSNM) Q4 2007 Earnings Call January 28, 2008 5:00 PM ET

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Today’s conference is being recorded. If you have any objections you may disconnect at this time. I’d now like to turn the call over for today’s conference to Mr. Chris Spencer, Chief Financial Officer. Sir, you may begin.

Christopher C. Spencer

Thank you and welcome everyone to First State Bank Corporation’s fourth quarter 2007 conference call. First State Bank Corporation will provide an online simulcast of this call on our website at www.fcbnm.com and an online replay will follow immediately and continue for 10 days. This replay can be reached at 866-566-0058. Again, that’s 866-566-0058. Your host and conference leaders for this call this afternoon are myself, Christopher C. Spencer, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, H. Patrick Dee, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Pam Smith, Chief Credit Officer, and Mike Stanford, President and Chief Executive Officer.

The Board of Directors of First State Bank Corporation has adopted a policy that the company will comply with Securities and Exchange Commission regulation FD in all respects. Consequently, this conference call will proceed under an agenda which I will announce momentarily. Matters outside the agenda will not be discussed.

The subject matter of this conference call will include forward-looking statements. These statements are not historical facts and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause First State’s results to differ materially from those contained in such statements. Our agenda this afternoon, Pat Dee will give an overview of the fourth quarter. I will walk you through the slides that are posted on our website, and then we’ll open the call up for your questions so with that I’ll hand it over to Pat.

H. Patrick Dee

Thank you, Chris. During the final quarter of 2007 we achieved solid loan growth and decent deposit growth. Our earnings were a disappointment as they were affected by an additional provision for loan losses which we used primarily to bolster our allowance for loan losses and also impacted by losses totaling about $1.2 million or several OREO properties.

In large part, due to the decrease in interest rates by the Federal Reserve in the fourth quarter and the late third quarter of last year, our net interest margin declined from 4.57% in the third quarter to 4.44% in the fourth quarter. With the interest decrease of 75 basis points that occurred last week, we’re projecting further contraction in our net interest margin of at least 15 to 20 basis points in the first quarter of 2008 which could be magnified by any further rate cuts.

Our non-interest expenses showed only nominal increases in most categories but expenses on other real estate owned increased by almost $1.7 million, including the $1.2 million in losses which I referred to earlier. We were able to sell one property in the fourth quarter for about $2 million and have sold a former bank branch for $1.3 million in January of this year, a sale which we originally expected to complete in the fourth quarter. We continue to market the remaining properties aggressively. Although the outcome is uncertain, we are currently negotiating wit h a party interested in the Heritage Place property at a price that would result in a minimal if any loss. Our non-interest expenses were also impacted in the fourth quarter by a write down of about $400,000 on the final stage of the adoption of our bank-wide [FIN] client network and new phone system which will save us significant expenses in the years ahead.

Our non-performing loan totals increased by just over $12 million during the quarter, primarily from the addition of a $6.5 million lost development loan in the Denver area as well as several residential construction loans. We established a specific reserve of about $1.1 million on that lot development loan based on what we think is a realistic estimate of the current value of the lots so that had a significant impact on our provision for loan losses during the quarter. Just over 80% of the dollar amount of the non-performing loans is secured by real estate which we believe will protect us from further substantial losses from these identified problems. During the quarter we transferred one more previous bank branch into OREO which had a value of just over $900,000. Our OREO portfolio now includes [inaudible] with roughly 46% pre-sold homes and the remainder for either model or spec properties. Of the vertical construction loans, roughly 47% are in New Mexico, 31% in Colorado, and 21% in Utah, with less than 1% in Arizona. Approximately $176 million of the construction portfolio is for residential lot development loans and we have additional loans for about $59 million for developed residential lots where a builder or an individual borrower in some cases has intentions to construct a home in the near future. Our commercial construction loans total about $164 million while our acquisition and development loans for commercial properties total about $131 million.

Our net charge offs for the quarter were about 26 basis of average loans on an annualized basis. Our outlook for the first quarter for the first part of 2008 is for charge offs to most likely remain in a range of 25 to 30 basis points annualized and for allowance for loan losses as a percent of loans to not vary significantly from the 1.26% which we maintained at the end of 2007. We will continue to evaluate that as we proceed through 2008.

Our stock price has been heavily impacted by that market conditions in the past few months. Although it did show some recovery last year on very high volume, at least through January 15th of this year there was a substantial level of short interest in our stock.

In addition to our earnings release, we announced earlier today a couple of changes in our Board of Directors with the resignation of Doug Smith and the appointment of Michael Blake. Dr. Smith has had some health issues which unfortunately have prevented him from fully participating as a board member. He’s been on our board the entire time that we have been a public company and we sincerely appreciate his advice and guidance over the years. We will miss his participation on our board.

At the same time we’re very fortunate to be able to announcement the appointment of Michael Blake to our Board of Directors to replace Dr. Smith. Mr. Blake has extensive experience in the financial services industry and is very well known both in New Mexico and Arizona and we want to welcome him to our board and look forward to his contributions towards our future success.

Now Chris will run through some detail on our results for the fourth quarter and then I’ll come back and summarize a few thoughts.

Christopher C. Spencer

Thanks, Pat. On the third slide you’ll see the fourth quarter overview. I think Pat touched on most of that, our earnings for the fourth quarter was $4.5 million or $0.22 per diluted share. Our net interest margin for the quarter was 4.44% and loans grew at a 10% annualized basis in the fourth quarter with deposit growth of $26 million and we approved a $0.09 dividend this quarter consistent with the last three quarters.

Our total assets, we ended 2007 at $3 billion $424 million, growth significantly driven by the acquisition of Heritage Bank. Our loan portfolio ended at $2 billion $541 million, an increase of right at $500 million which included Heritage Bank, exclusive of Heritage and the subsequent loan sale related to that. Loans grew a total of $250 million for the year or just over 12% growth rate of the year excluding Heritage Bank.

The fourth quarter the loan portfolio grew $62.2 million with good contribution by New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. Colorado was fairly anemic and flat this quarter but that $62 million growth in the fourth quarter has a run rate of roughly 10% annualized.

Our deposits ended the year at $2 billion $574 million, an increase of just over $450 million with $360 million of that coming from Heritage Bank. We had an increase of $93.8 million on the year which is a run rate for the year for growth of a little over 4%. Deposits in the fourth quarter grew just under $26 million for again a run rate for the fourth quarter of 4% as well. Our growth for the first half of the year was flat. The third quarter was relatively strong. In the fourth quarter down a little bit again with a run rate of about 4% annualized growth.

Non-interest bearing deposits ended the year at $485 million, an increase of $38 million for the year. In the fourth quarter, however, our non-interest bearing accounts decreased at just under $19 million in the quarter.

Looking at quarterly net income and diluted earnings per share as I indicated earlier, the earnings for the fourth quarter were just over $4.5 million equating to $0.22 diluted per share earnings. As Pat indicated before, the lower earnings were driven significantly by margin compression as well as a higher provision for loan loss in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter. Our other non-interest income was fairly stable quarter to quarter. In the non-interest expense area, as Pat indicated, it was largely driven by $1.8 million of other real estate owned related expenses including two fairly large charge offs relative to lot inventories that had been repossessed as well as a write down on two of our branch facilities, one of them that has been in OREO. We’re trying to sell that and indications are the values not where the carrying value was. We wrote that down. A REO communities branch by $150,000 and in this quarter we transferred in a branch in Las Lunas we’ll refer to as Las Lunas West which we had closed in November and have decided to sell that facility and therefore it was transferred into other real estate this quarter and written down from carrying value by about $460,000 to the value that we believe that we’ll be able to realize in a sale.

Outside of the other real estate expenses in that non-interest expense category, the kind of day-to-day operating expenses were fairly stable from third to fourth quarter other than the write off of the phone system that Pat referred to relative to the [FIN] client conversion.

Our net interest margin again was 4.44% on the quarter, a decline of 13 basis points quarter-over-quarter and Pat has already indicated that our projections going into this first quarter from the already 75 basis point Fed cut last week we anticipate 15 to 20 basis points quarter-over-quarter compression from fourth quarter into the first quarter of ’08. An additional rate cut, if it comes this week, again will compress that even further.

A return on assets and equity although net income is slightly up for the year, it’s lower earnings per share from the equity that was issued for Heritage Bank and therefore the return on equity and return on assets has declined year over year.

The efficiency ratio for 2007 was 69.43%, up slightly from ’06. The fourth quarter of 2007 was 73.14% up from the third quarter of 68.77, again driven by two factors, one being the large other real estate expenses in the fourth quarter as well as compression in the denominator as the net interest has come down as well. Again, we believe our day to day expenses are fairly well under control and hopefully we can reduce this ration but it will be challenged as we continue to see margin compression.

Total non-performing loans were up from the third quarter to fourth quarter, from $37.4 million to $48.8 million or 1.43% of total assets, the majority of this coming from a $12 million increase in non-performing loans, yet other real estate owned was down just over $600,000. Pat had indicated earlier we did sell in the quarter a lot inventory up in Colorado that reduced other real estate owned by 2.4 million. We had another property that was in OREO last quarter that we got a preliminary offer to buy that lot inventory. Again, the one in Colorado that was carried at one point $1.7 million and therefore we wrote that down by about $230,000 to its ultimate closing value.

I previously mentioned, we also transferred in the Las Lunas West branch which is about $900,000 after the write down so that’s the major activity within the other real estate owned portfolio. Pat also indicated that we did sell one of our other branches that was carried at $1.3 million subsequent to year end and we do have a potential sale working on the Heritage Place property.

On a more positive note the delinquencies were down third to fourth quarter from $23.9 million to $21.7 million or 8.6% of total loans. The allowance for loan losses ended the quarter and the year at $31.7 million which equates to 1.2%. 6% of total loans held for investment up fairly sharply from the third quarter which was 1.20%. This allowance also provides a coverage of non-performing loans of 103%.

The provision in the fourth quarter was $3.7 million and as Pat indicated, the chargeoffs that we had $1.6 million in the quarter is an annualized 26 basis point run. For the year 2007 our chargeoffs were right at 19 basis points compared to 18 basis points in our 2006.

With that I’ll turn it back over to Pat.

H. Patrick Dee

Thank you, Chris. Our results for the fourth quarter were clearly disappointing in several respects but we were encouraged by our steady loan growth throughout 2007 and the decent deposit growth which we recorded in the second half of the year. We continue to focus a lot of our attention on our asset quality and our increasing the staff that we have to work on our problem credits. We repurchased a substantial amount of our common stock in 2007 but at this plan we have no plans to continue buying our stocks in 2008 in order to help maintain our well-capitalized position on a risk base basis. We’re also considering the possibility of obtaining more trust preferred debt in order to move our capital ratios a little bit closer to those maintained by our peer group. That amount would most likely be in the $25 million to $30 million range which would have a slight negative impact on our net interest margin in earnings per share but that would be fairly slight.

Our largest challenges for 2008 will be coping with the decreasing interest rate environment and the difficult market for residential building lost, especially in the Colorado market. We are fortunate that the states that we operate in are seeing generally good economic conditions, fairly low unemployment levels, and steady population growth. In Albuquerque, two large companies recently announced that they were moving significant operations to our area which should provide about 650 new jobs by early 2009 and a total of close to 2700 new jobs over the next several years.

We believe that 2008 will certainly be a challenging year in some respects but we have identified a detailed set of actions to improve our performance in the coming year so that we can produce better results than those achieved in 2007 and be positioned for continued progress in the next several years. Those initiatives include plans to reduce certain non-interest expenses, increase our non-interest income, generate additional core deposits, retain our existing core deposits, and better manage our problem assets.

With that we’ll open it up to questions from our analysts.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

At this time we’d like to begin the question and answer session of today’s program. (Operator Instructions) We’ll take questions in the order that they’re received and up first is Hugh Miller. Thank you, sir. Please state your company name.

Hugh Miller - Sidoti & Co. LLC

Sure, I’m with Sidoti and Company. I just had a couple of quick questions. You guys had mentioned talking about the capital rations and trying to maintain the well-capitalized threshold. Can you talk about what your target for the total capital ratio would be roughly and I think it’s 10.3% now. You mentioned the potential for raising maybe $25 million to $30 million in trust preferreds or some type of issuance. Can you talk about what possible costs you would anticipate that would be and over what time period you might do that?

Christopher C. Spencer

Right now we would expect to do that probably during the first three quarters of the year. We estimate that the interest cost on that from what we’re seeing at this point would be probably at least in the range of LIBOR plus 300 to 350 basis points. Our real target for that total capital ratio over a period of time would be to get it up in the 11% range. We think right now we can maintain our growth expectations and also maintain the capital level about where it is without any further infusion just through internal profits but it’s pretty clear in some conversations with our regulators that capital is becoming a very important issue from a regulatory standpoint and we’d like the latitude to continue to grow our balance sheet in a way that provides a good return to our shareholders and so for that reason we think we’ll try to bolster those capital ratios a little bit.

Hugh Miller - Sidoti & Co. LLC

Sure. Thanks for the color there. Also, I guess looking at the loan portfolio, can you talk about the end of year, the difference between the variable rate exposure to fixed rate exposure?

H. Patrick Dee

As far as the variable rates, those are repriced immediately or about 45% of the portfolio or just over $1.1 billion. That’s the majority of the variable. There are others that are variable that go to quarterly or semi-annually or a few annually but the majority of the variable rates are immediate.

Hugh Miller - Sidoti & Co. LLC

Okay can you talk to us about the duration of the CD portfolio and when we might start to see a benefit on the margin from repricing there?

Christopher C. Spencer

I think we’re already seeing a little bit of that from the previous rate cuts going back to September, Hugh. The majority of our CDs are typically in the one-year or kind of centered around the one-year bucket, some in the two as well, but they’re not real long term so we have already started to see some repricing going back to the earlier rate cuts in September.

Hugh Miller - Sidoti & Co. LLC

Okay, but the duration is probably slightly above one year on average?

H. Patrick Dee

I would say it is.

Hugh Miller - Sidoti & Co. LLC

Okay and I apologize if you guys had mentioned this, can you just touch base on the geographic breakdown of the loan and deposit portfolios?

H. Patrick Dee

You bet. At December 31st the loan portfolio for New Mexico was $1 billion $509 million, Colorado was $629 million, Utah $268 million, and Arizona $134 million. Deposits: New Mexico was $1 billion 818 million, Colorado $584 million, Utah $20 million, and Arizona $153 million.

Hugh Miller - Sidoti & Co. LLC

Okay, thanks so much for that. I’ll step back in line and let some other people ask questions.

Operator

Our next question from our next analyst is Peyton Green. State your company name please.

Peyton Green - FTN Midwest Securities Corp.

Yes, FTN Midwest Securities. I was wondering if you could talk about the expense initiatives in the context maybe of excluding the potential OREO expense. I mean, just the day to day operating expenses, how confident are you that you can get them down and about what order of magnitude can you reduce them in ‘08?

Christopher C. Spencer

I think we’re continuing to focus on a couple of areas, Peyton. One of those is occupancy expense. We have a little excess space available in some of our support services area so we’re in the process of moving some of those around and we hope to free up here shortly a sizable chunk of space that we think the odds are pretty good that we can sublease that to reduce our expenses there. That’s clearly one of the big changes from an occupancy standpoint. Throughout the last couple of years we have closed some branches which cumulatively should have some favorable impact there going forward so those are kind of the keys for the occupancy expense number. The other big expense for us clearly is salary and benefits. We continue to hold the line on adding new staff even though we are growing. In fact, throughout 2007 we saw a steady decrease in our staffing levels. Some of those were connected with repositioning once we completed the acquisition and integration of Heritage Bank but others were related to our ongoing operations. We’re consistently looking at re-evaluating various areas for a little better automation so that we can again either hold our staffing level or in some cases even reduce it which we’ve done primarily through attrition of late. So we don’t have any big silver bullets if you will from a staffing standpoint but we are looking at better automation kind of throughout the system to control those staffing numbers a little bit better.

We’re also paying closer attention to some of our discretionary expenses, in particular things like travel and entertainment, advertising, where we have some budgets in place that are for lower expenditures than what we incurred in 2007 and in fact we’re looking at ways to manage some of those numbers down even a little bit further below those budgeted, so it’s kind of a broad-based approach again with the big emphasis on occupancy and personnel expense.

Peyton Green - FTN Midwest Securities Corp.

Okay, and then on the OREO side, what do you think is a realistic level to bottle OREO over the next year? Is there a percentage of OREO that we should keep in mind?

Christopher C. Spencer

If we look at the make up of what we have currently, again roughly half of it is in foreclosed properties and the other half either in bank facilities that we owned or that we acquired the last couple of years. Realistically barring any further downturn in some of the commercial property market, we think we’ve got all of the former branch facilities and land pretty well knocked down to its realizable value. Having said that, we have had some write offs and a few of those this year, and I won’t necessarily guarantee that we won’t have any more but again we’ve taking a pretty hard conservative look at those values so we think the ongoing expense there should be minimal with the exception of the Heritage Place property which has a large annual tax item of about $350,000 so that expense we know we’re going to have going forward until we sell that property. The remaining properties are a matter of managing those while we own them and in some cases spending some money on taxes and other things to fix them up a little bit and we clearly are continuing to incur property taxes on the rest of the properties. It’s difficult to say other than we would certainly expect OREO expenses to be lower in 2008 than they have been in 2007 because that was extraordinary in a lot of respects, but we’ve got that floor of probably at least $600,000 to $700,000 per year in kind of ongoing expenses that we know we’re going to have so clearly somewhere between that floor and what we’ve experienced this year is realistic. Depending on how favorable the market is to us, we’re certainly going t o do our best to manage it as close to that floor as we can.

Peyton Green - FTN Midwest Securities Corp.

Okay, and then when do you start to think about shrinking the bank’s balance sheet to improve capital levels or do you? All the gross seems fine but it’s not bringing additional profitability to the company. There’s only so much trust preferreds you can issue. When do you start to think about it a little bit harder?

Christopher C. Spencer

I think the key for us this year is to shift the balance sheet mix out of loan products that are a little more capital intensive. In particular, the commercial real estate portfolio. That’s clearly where we’re seeing a lot of attention from the regulators and clearly we have no need or any desire to continue to expand that construction and land development portfolio so in the past we’ve seen a lot of growth come from that area and I guess our philosophy is that both core deposit growth and a reasonable amount of loan growth are very critical to improving our profitability going forward. That’s been masked the last couple of years because of some of the expenses related to these problem assets but at this point in time it still makes perfect sense for example for us to book more owner-occupied commercial real estate business which has been our bread and butter. It has been very well insulated from any loss exposure in the past and also to continue to do some C&I business where we think it makes sense but clearly by shifting the mix on the balance sheet we can reduce some of those capital requirements and hopefully grow our deposit portfolio at a rate that’s going to give us a little better margin on that extra business that we’re bringing in so that we do control our growth a little bit, more dollars dropping to the bottom line and improve the capital position. We’ve still got substantial trust preferred capacity in terms of Tier 2 capital. We’re pretty well maxed out on what will count as Tier 1 but clearly from the regulatory standpoint their issue is not with our Tier 1 level but the total capital levels so having said that we’re going to use our trust preferred capacity pretty judiciously this year, especially in the less favorable rate environment than we’re seeing on those instruments at this point although interest rates in general being lower is going to help control that cost a little bit.

Michael R. Stanford

Peyton, it’s Mike. I guess I would disagree that growth won’t bring us profitability. I mean, if you take the three acquisitions we made in the last two years and the machinations and everything we had to go through to get those incorporated into the company and the extraordinary expenses that came out of that during that period of time and then the shakeup of the market in the last quarter and coming into this point in time, if we took all of that off the table and looked at what we have historically done on an organic growth basis, it’s always been very profitable. I think even at this point in time the markets are coming back to our model and the markets that we’re in are not bad markets. We’re not seeing the same problems that you’re seeing everywhere else, so I think we’re in a position with the capacity right now to grow at a very profitable rate, especially around the cost improvements that we’re putting place and the way we’re going to approach the growth as Pat said. The remix of our portfolio geographically and by loan type along with a very focused attention to deposit growth which we think is a different market than it has been the last couple years ought to really bring profitability to the forefront. Now that being said, the margin contraction is something we’ve got to pay attention to but we just had a discussion this morning that that isn’t an excuse if we’ve got margin contraction and then we have to ramp up the other side of this to take account of that, both on the expenses and on the growth.

Peyton Green - FTN Midwest Securities Corp.

I guess my question stems from, you can go back to ’02 when your margin was under, I guess, below where it is now and you were still generating a 1-ish type ROA and I guess my question is what do you think is a reasonable ROA goal and what’s a reasonable amount of time to get there?

Michael R. Stanford

Our goal is we want 15% return on equity and we want north of 1% return on assets and we are looking at getting there as fast as we possibly can. Now 1% on assets I think we can certainly get there and be approaching that very quickly. The equity side of it you know is going to take us a little more time but we think that we need to really be on a track to where we’re back to north of 13 to 15 in the next 24 to 36 months.

Peyton Green - FTN Midwest Securities Corp.

All right, great, thank you.

Operator

{Operator Instructions} We are showing no questions.

H. Patrick Dee

Well, again we appreciate your time and attention today. We realize that our results for 2007 have been less than what everyone was expecting and we’re clearly working very hard to improve those results despite the challenging markets that we face, although we believe that there continue to be great opportunities in each one of our marketplaces to continue to take marketshare from the large banks. Many of them are suffering their own profitability issues but we think it will ultimately impact their customer service levels and again afford us some great opportunities going forward to improve our new business generation. One of the real bright spots for us at this point has been the Arizona market in particular and we’ll be seeing both on good loan growth and excellent deposit growth. Again, that market has gotten a lot of bad press because of the problems in the residential real estate market there but our portion of the business which is more geared towards commercial operations right now has excellent asset quality and we think great potential to continue to grow. Our Utah market clearly is one of our best smaller loan production markets, again with very good asset quality and generally good economic conditions. New Mexico has been very stable and we think again the outlook in our home state really is pretty good at this point. Colorado has some challenges but again there are pockets that are doing quite well and that we have very high hopes for, so from our point of view the future is far from bleak. In fact, it’s very encouraging in some respects and we’re going to continue to work very hard to provide the kind of returns to our shareholders that they expect and deserve, so with that again, thank you for your attention today and we’ll talk to you next quarter.

Operator

This concludes today’s conference. Thank you for participating. This concludes today’s conference. You may disconnect at any time.

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Source: First State Bancorp Q4 2007 Earnings Call Transcript
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