Last July, I highlightedWest Bancorporation
Needless to say, things have been going well, and it seemed like last July's price was gone for good. But the shares pulled back a bit before the recent announcement of a share buyback program, and I still think that West Bank is an attractive investment. The company just turned in a solid first-quarter earnings report to help make me look good.
Driven primarily by loan growth, West Bank reported an earnings increase of 13% for the just-finished first quarter. The loan growth did come at the expense of a slight contraction of the company's net interest margin, but at 3.7% versus 3.8% the margin is still solid. However, I'm hoping this will not be a trend.
The 13% growth in income represents a bit of a breakout for West Bank. Over the past few years, West Bank hadn't been able to crack double digits. However, with this quarter under its belt and a new stock buyback plan announced recently, it seems the company should be able to start regularly clearing double-digit increases in earnings per share on a quarter basis.
Overall, West Bank performs well on a number of benchmarks I like to consider when looking at a bank. The company keeps its costs under control, as can be seen by its efficiency ratio of 36%, which is simply stunning. The bank is also well-capitalized and has plenty of cash and investments on hand to provide a cushion in the softer times that will inevitably come -- and that some say are right around the corner.
Perhaps most important, West Bank has a history of earning a high return on equity and assets -- both signs of a well-run bank. This quarter was no different with the return on equity clocking in at 20% and the return on assets at 1.7%.
West Bank has been working on remaking itself for a couple of years now by diversifying out of the savings bank business and into broader, but related financial services. In addition, the bank has moved out of its home Des Moines market and into western parts of Iowa via an acquisition last year. Given the recent performance of the company it seems both pieces are performing well.
West Bank does not provide the flash of a Bank of America
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Fool contributor Nathan Parmelee has no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned.