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Unfortunately for investors, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based BankAtlantic Bancorp (NYSE: BBX ) just reported its fifteenth straight quarter of net losses. However, there's more to this figure than meets the eye.
The brighter side
All in all, BankAtlantic reported a $22.9 million net loss for Q1 2011. However, in the banking segment, it posted its lowest net loss since the third quarter of 2008. While losing $16.4 million there is nothing to cheer about, it certainly improved upon BankAtlantic's $17.1 million shortfall in the year-ago period.
At $11.6 million, core earnings rose sequentially from the $8.3 million booked in the previous quarter, but still decreased by $4.2 million year over year. Given the plight of Florida's economy, this is somewhat understandable. Core deposits also rose sequentially, to $2.95 billion from $2.8 billion, and the total cost of deposits improved to 0.44% from 0.47% in the same time frame. Considering that this figure peaked as high as 2.15% in the fourth quarter of 2007, the lower cost of deposits represents a significant improvement in stability since the depths of the housing crisis.
BankAtlantic's credit quality is also improving somewhat. Net charge-offs declined to $27.8 million in the first quarter of 2011, as compared to $36.1 million in the year-ago period. Provision for loan losses also declined to $27.8 million from $32 million year over year.
In a recent article on Hudson City Bancorp (Nasdaq: HCBK ) , I talked about this larger trend of improving credit portfolios. Despite a few missteps and a lot more headwind pressure, I think BankAtlantic, like Hudson, generally falls within that trend.
BankAtlantic's net interest margin declined to 3.28% for the quarter, from 3.61% for the first quarter of 2010. The bank had to maintain increased liquidity for its Tampa branch sale to PNC (NYSE: PNC ) , but the short-term crimp on this margin shouldn't be a major ongoing concern for the bank.
Besides, BankAtlantic believes that the sale will allow it to focus on its branches in Southeast Florida. This strategy of concentrating on core earnings and slashing its assets seems plausible to me. I'm also pleased to see BankAtlantic following other regional banks by posting improved credit quality in the first quarter.
The Foolish prognosis
Plummeting revenue has prevented this bank from posting an overall profit. Its total interest income dipped to $34.7 million, from $39.5 million last quarter or $47.8 million in the first quarter of 2010. Non-interest income also declined. Despite its recuperating metrics, BankAtlantic still doesn't seem safe to me. I'd watch how well the bank pulls off its ongoing turnaround before I considering an investment here.
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