First Niagara Financial Stock: 9 Critical Numbers

Given that you clicked on this article, it seems safe to assume you either own stock in First Niagara Financial (NASDAQ: FNFG  ) or are considering buying shares in the near future. If so, then you've come to the right place. The table below reveals the nine most critical numbers investors need to know about First Niagara Financial stock before deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold it.

But before getting to that, a brief introduction is in order. First Niagara traces its roots back to 1870 with the founding of Farmers and Mechanics' Savings Bank. In the intervening years, it's grown into one of the largest regional banks in the Northeastern United States. While it did so, according to Wikipedia, through "the recruitment of new customers, as opposed to the purchase of other firms' assets," the same can't be said of the bank's growth in the time since the financial crisis. The Buffalo, New York-based bank has completed multiple acquisitions over the last five years, culminating in the recent and anticlimactic departure of its now-former CEO John Koelmel. At present, First Niagara has $37 billion in assets and 360 branches in four Northeastern states.

As you can see in the table above, First Niagara's primary strength is in its management of credit risk -- the significance of which cannot be overstated. Its nonperforming loans ratio comes in nearly 100 basis points less than the industry average. Beyond that, it pays out an arguably overly generous portion of its net income via dividends.

On the other hand, the more glaring problem is its subpar net interest margin and lackluster return on equity. Not captured by the numbers are the growing pains that First Financial is unquestionably suffering as a result of its aggressive expansion since the crisis. To fund the growth, the bank has increased its outstanding share count from 102.8 million shares in 2007 to nearly 350 million today. And as a consequence, its earnings per share have been sliced in half, going from $0.82 per share down to $0.40, and its quarterly dividend payout followed suit.

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