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Central Pacific earnings surge

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    Second-quarter earnings benefited from a reduction in the bank’s nonperforming assets.

Central Pacific Financial Corp. keeps buying back its own stock at a torrid pace as it continues to distance itself from its once-struggling past.

The parent of the state’s fourth-largest bank repurchased $80 million, or 3.5 million shares, during the second quarter and showed further improvement in the quality of its loan portfolio as earnings surged 33.7 percent.

$12.3 million

$9.2 million

Central Pacific’s net income also was bolstered by returning $7.3 million to its income statement that was previously set aside for loan losses and reversing $2.4 million in expenses for an unnamed former executive officer’s retirement benefits that will not be paid.

The bank’s net income rose to $12.3 million, or 39 cents a share, from $9.2 million, or 25 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter. Central Pacific’s earnings per share jumped 56 percent because of 4.4 million shares it repurchased between the second quarters of 2015 and 2014. When shares are bought back, they are taken off the market, which increases the value of all remaining shares.

Central Pacific’s earnings also benefited from a 23.8 percent reduction in its nonperforming assets — loans delinquent 90 days or more — to $32.1 million from $42.1 million in the year-earlier quarter. That’s a huge improvement from the $496 million in nonperforming assets it had when former CEO John Dean took over in March 2010 after the bank ran into loan trouble in connection with the California real estate meltdown.

Dean still is chairman of the bank but has turned over the CEO title to Catherine Ngo, who took over July 1 and became the only the second woman in the state to head a publicly traded company besides Connie Lau of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.

“As the newly appointed CEO, I’m fortunate to be reporting on a very solid second quarter,” she said Thursday afternoon ahead of Friday’s official earnings release. “We saw good loan growth, strong core deposit growth and a significant decline in nonperforming assets.”

Ngo said she wants to continue the momentum that Dean started.

“I think about it as being in new shoes and I’m charting the path in these new shoes,” Ngo said. “A couple years ago we set out on a path of focusing on building and deepening relationships with our customers, and we’re going to continue on that path with a particular focus going forward of differentiating ourselves in the market based on the customers’ experience. In the end we believe we’re going to differentiate ourselves based on service in understanding the needs of our customers and meeting those needs.”

Central Pacific Chief Risk Officer Bill Wilson said the bank no longer has any nonperforming assets on the mainland of its $387 million in outstanding loans. All of the $32.1 million in nonperforming assets is in Hawaii, where the bank has $2.6 billion in loans.

“The quality of our mainland loan book is very strong, and the team has worked very hard to resolve the remaining NPAs on the mainland,” Wilson said. “We were successful in resolving the ones.”

Chief Financial Officer David Morimoto said the bank’s stock repurchases will begin to slow and will be less this year than in 2014 as its finances stabilize.

“It’s really a function of where we’re coming from,” he said. “When the bank was recapitalized (with $345 million from investors and existing shareholders) in 2011, there was a forecast for credit losses, and, fortunately, the losses were not as bad as originally forecasted. So the credit proved to be better than forecasted, and as a result we found ourselves with excess capital. That’s really what is leading to the outsized buyback activity.

“The bank’s policy is not to build more capital. We think we’re well capitalized today. So the policy, in general terms, is to pay a cash dividend at levels that are comparable to our peers and also to have an ongoing share repurchase program.”

Central Pacific pays a quarterly dividend of 12 cents a share, or 2.1 percent, based on Thursday’s closing price of $23.39.

Meanwhile, the bank’s repurchase of $80 million worth of stock in the second quarter included $75 million that was acquired in a private transaction with Citigroup, which purchased those shares from Anchorage and Carlyle — the co-lead investors in Central Pacific’s recapitalization.

“We were not required to buy back the shares in that amount or at that time; however, the company believed it was in our best interest to do so,” Morimoto said. “What was attractive with the $75 million repurchase was that because it was done as part of the private-equity sell-down, we did not incur a commission.”

Central Pacific has now posted 18 straight profitable quarters following $703.1 million in losses from 2008 to 2010. Loans rose 7.6 percent last quarter to $3 billion from $2.79 billion while deposits increased 4.5 percent to $4.18 billion from $4 billion. Core deposits, which include checking accounts, savings and money market deposits, and certificates of deposits less than $100,000, rose $182.5 million, or 5.7 percent, to $3.38 billion as of June 30.

The bank’s earnings last quarter were partly offset by a $2 million contribution to the Central Pacific Bank Foundation, its first contribution to the foundation since December 2013; and a $1.9 million loss that the bank took to reposition its investment portfolio. Central Pacific sold lower-yield, short-term investments and repurchased long-term, higher-yield investments. That resulted in the bank taking the $1.9 million short-term hit now to get a better yield in the future.

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