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January 28, 2014

First Financial Holdings, Inc. Reports Record 2013 Operating Earnings of $63.5 million Declares Quarterly Cash Dividend

COLUMBIA, S.C.—January 28, 2014—First Financial Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCBT) today released its unaudited results of operations and other financial information for the three-month period and year ended December 31, 2013. Highlights of 2013 include the following:

  • Net income available to common shareholders of $13.2 million, or $0.55 diluted EPS in 4Q 2013, up 5.7%, compared to $11.5 million, or $0.52 diluted EPS in 3Q 2013, and up 44.7% from $5.9 million, or $0.38 diluted EPS in 4Q 2012;
  • Diluted EPS for YTD 2013 was $2.38, up 17.2%, compared to $2.03 in 2012, operating diluted EPS was $3.16, up 26.9%, compared to $2.49 in 2012;
  • Operating earnings of $19.3 million, which exclude merger expenses and include preferred stock dividends, or $0.80 diluted EPS in 4Q 2013 compared to $18.8 million, or $0.85 diluted EPS in 3Q 2013 and $11.1 million, or $0.72 diluted EPS in 4Q 2012;
  • Return on average assets was 0.70% annualized in 4Q 2013 compared to 0.66% in 3Q 2013 and 0.52% in 4Q 2012; Operating return on average assets was 1.00% annualized in 4Q 2013 compared to 1.07% in 3Q 2013 and 0.98% in 4Q 2012;
  • Net charge-offs of non-acquired loans decreased to 0.26% annualized in 4Q 2013, compared to 0.45% annualized in 3Q 2013 and 0.64% annualized in 4Q 2012;
  • Legacy loan growth for 4Q 2013 was $124.0 million or 18.1% annualized and for the year legacy loan growth was $294.2 million or 11.4% in all categories; and
  • Core deposit growth, excluding CDs and legacy First Financial merger, up $78.0 million or 9.5% annualized in 4Q 2013 and $121.0 or 3.7% for the year. Including legacy First Financial, core deposit growth was $44.0 million, or 3.5% annualized from 3Q 2013.

Quarterly Cash Dividend

The Board of Directors of First Financial Holdings, Inc. has declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.19 per share payable on its common stock. This per share amount is equal to the dividend paid in the immediately preceding quarter and is $0.01 per share, or 5.6%, higher than a year ago. The dividend will be payable on February 21, 2014 to shareholders of record as of February 14, 2014.

Fourth Quarter 2013 Financial Performance

Please refer to the accompanying tables for detailed comparative data on results of operations and financial results.

The Company reported consolidated net income available to common shareholders of $13.2 million, or $0.55 per diluted common share for the three months ended December 31, 2013 up from $11.5 million, or $0.52 per diluted common share for the three months ended September 30, 2013. Driving this increase from the third quarter was the following:

  • an increase in net interest income primarily the result of the full quarter impact of legacy First Financial after the merger;
  • continued improvement in asset quality resulting in no non-acquired provision for loan losses;
  • an increase in noninterest income primarily the result of the full quarter impact of legacy First Financial after the merger;
  • a decrease in the effective tax rate to 34% from 36.1%; partially offset by
  • an increase in noninterest expense primarily the result of the full quarter impact of legacy First Financial after the merger.

“We are pleased to report record operating earnings per share for the year, which increased 26.9% to $3.16,” said Robert R. Hill, Jr. CEO of First Financial Holdings, Inc. “I am also pleased with the total return to our shareholders for 2013, which was over 67%. This was certainly a transformational year for our company. While the merger with First Financial has created a lot of momentum, I am also pleased with the non-merger related performance. Asset quality improved significantly with many of our credit metrics returning to pre-downturn levels, our organic loan and deposit growth was exceptional with 11% organic loan growth for the year, and we continued to add talent to the team, which only makes us stronger. We are also on track with our merger integration and achieving our efficiency targets. We experienced a mortgage volume decline this quarter as a result of the rising rate environment, and saw some margin compression linked quarter. Overall, 2013 was a record year for our company. With our merger integration going well and our branding change scheduled for this summer, we are optimistic about the opportunities in 2014.”

Asset Quality

During the fourth quarter of 2013, SCBT continued to experience improvement in asset quality, excluding acquired loans and acquired other real estate owned (OREO), as nonperforming loans declined by $7.3 million, or 14.7%, and classified assets declined by $15.3 million, or 13.8% from the third quarter of 2013. Classified assets declined by $47.2 million during 2013, or 32.9%. Non-acquired nonperforming assets (NPAs) as a percentage of total non-acquired loans and repossessed assets declined to 1.94% compared to 2.40% in the third quarter of 2013. NPAs, excluding acquired NPAs, declined by $10.4 million from the third quarter 2013 level. In addition, 30-89 day past due non-acquired loans declined by $1.3 million during the fourth quarter of 2013 as compared to the third quarter of 2013.

At December 31, 2013, the allowance for non-acquired loan losses was $34.3 million or 1.20% of non-acquired period-end loans. The current allowance for loan losses provides 0.81 times coverage of period-end non-acquired nonperforming loans, up from 0.73 times at the end of the third quarter of 2013. Net charge-offs within the non-acquired portfolio were $1.8 million for the quarter or 0.26% annualized, down from the third quarter of 2013 of $3.0 million or 0.45% annualized and down from the fourth quarter of 2012 of $4.1 million or 0.64% annualized. For the year, SCBT’s net charge-offs totaled $11.1 million, or 0.41%, compared to $18.2 million, or 0.73%, in 2012.

OREO costs increased $914,000 from the third quarter to $4.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2013. This increase was the result of approximately $300,000 in additional write downs on commercial OREO, a full quarter of carrying cost on the OREO acquired in the First Financial merger, and an increase in the carrying cost on the all other OREO assets, (including property taxes, insurance, appraisals, and legal cost).

Net Interest Income and Margin

Non-taxable equivalent net interest income was $84.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2013, a $4.7 million increase from the third quarter, resulting from the following:

  1. A $455.7 million increase in the average balance of acquired loans from the third quarter of 2013 resulting from the full quarter impact of FFCH acquired loans;
  2. An increase in non-acquired loans and resulting yield contributed $1.3 million in additional interest income; partially offset by
  3. A decrease of 72 basis points in the yield on acquired loans due to the lower yielding First Financial acquired loans and the full quarter impact.

Tax-equivalent net interest margin decreased 20 basis points from the third quarter of 2013 and increased slightly by 3 basis points from the fourth quarter of 2012. The Company’s average yield on interest-earning assets decreased 19 basis points while the average rate on interest-bearing liabilities remained flat from the third quarter of 2013. During the fourth quarter of 2013, the Company’s average total assets increased to approximately $8.0 billion and average earning assets increased to $6.9 billion. The growth in average earning assets was supported by growth in average interest-bearing liabilities of more than $458.0 million.

Noninterest Income and Expense

Noninterest income was $20.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, up $5.5 million from the third quarter of 2013 and up $9.8 million from fourth quarter of 2012. The increase from the third quarter of 2013 was driven by impact of a full quarter of First Federal customer-oriented noninterest income which includes service charges, bankcard services, mortgage banking income, and trust and investment services. Noninterest income grew significantly by $9.8 million increase from fourth quarter of 2012 due to The Savannah Bancorp, Inc. and First Financial acquisitions. The increases were partially offset by lower mortgage banking income due to the decline in the mortgage pipeline and reduced gains from loans sold in the secondary market, and a decline in the fair value of the hedges related to mortgage banking activity. In addition the negative accretion on the FDIC indemnification asset in the third quarter was $7.4 million, $882,000 more than the fourth quarter of 2012, but $196,000 less than the third quarter of 2013. The increase in negative accretion was the result of the reduction of expected cash flows from the indemnification asset related to certain pools of acquired loans which had improved estimated cash flows. Other noninterest income increased from the third quarter of 2013 by $1.6 million and from the fourth quarter of 2012 by $2.5 million, due primarily to an increase in recoveries from acquired assets and from the full quarter contribution from the FFCH merger.

Noninterest expense was $83.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, up from $75.4 million from the third quarter. This increase from the third quarter of 2013 was primarily due to the impact of full quarter of FFCH operational cost of $24.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2013, up from $18.7 million for the third quarter of 2013 (66 days of FFCH operations). The efficiency ratio for the quarter was 79.2%, up from 78.7% in the third quarter. Our operational efficiency ratio, which excludes merger expenses and OREO related expenses, was 66.3% compared to 64.3% in the third quarter.

Balance Sheet and Capital

At the end of the year, SCBT’s total assets were $7.9 billion, up from $5.1 billion at December 31, 2012, and down from $8.0 billion at September 30, 2013. Since December 31, 2012, the Company’s balance sheet has grown by more than 54%. Asset growth is evident in every line item due to the FFCH merger except OREO and FDIC receivable for loss share agreements and loans held for sale. During the fourth quarter of 2013, the Company purchased $205.9 million in GSEs and mortgage backed securities. Offsetting this increase were decreases in cash and cash equivalents by $165.7 million, all loans net of the allowance by $42.0 million, loans held for sale by $21.9 million and the FDIC receivable by $21.8 million.

The Company’s book value per share increased to $40.72 per share at December 31, 2013, compared to $40.31 at September 30, 2013. Capital increased by $11.4 million due primarily to net income available to common shareholder of $13.2 million, which was partially offset by $4.6 million in dividends paid to our shareholders. Tangible book value (“TBV”) per share increased by $0.59 per share to $22.35 at December 31, 2013 from $21.76 at September 30, 2013 due primarily to the capital increases described above. In addition, tangible common equity to tangible assets increased to 7.13% at December 31, 2013 up from 6.85% at the end of the third quarter.

The total risk-based capital ratio is estimated to be around 14.3% consistent with the third quarter of 2013. Tier 1 leverage ratio decreased to approximately 9.1% from 10.1% at September 30, 2013. The decline is driven by a $763.2 million increase in average total assets due to including a full quarter of FFCH assets in the average balance. The Company’s capital position remains “well-capitalized” by all measures at December 31, 2013.

“We continued to reposition our balance sheet during the quarter as we increased our investment securities portfolio to almost $800.0 million, and our growth in the non-acquired loan portfolio during the quarter was also encouraging as we move into 2014,” said John C. Pollok, COO and CFO. “The asset quality overall continues to improve and the quality of the acquired loan portfolio continues to reflect declines in riskier assets.”

First Financial Holdings, Inc. will hold a conference call on January 28th at 11 a.m. ET during which management will review earnings and performance trends. Callers wishing to participate may call toll-free by dialing 888-317-6016. The number for international participants is 412-317-6016. The conference ID number is 10038650. Participants can also listen to the live audio webcast through the Investor Relations section of www.SCBTonline.com. A replay will be available beginning January 28th by 2:00 p.m. ET until 9:00 a.m. on February 12th. To listen to the replay, dial 877-344-7529 or 412-317-0088. The pass code is 10038650.


First Financial Holdings, Inc., (SCBT) Columbia, South Carolina is a registered bank holding company incorporated under the laws of South Carolina. The Company consists of SCBT, the Bank and the following divisions: NCBT, Community Bank & Trust, The Savannah Bank, and First Federal. The Bank also operates Minis & Co., Inc. and First Southeast 401k Fiduciaries, both wholly owned registered investment advisors; and First Southeast Investor Services, a wholly owned broker dealer. Providing financial services for over 80 years, First Financial Holdings, Inc. operates 141 locations in 19 South Carolina counties, 12 Georgia counties, and 4 North Carolina counties. First Financial Holdings, Inc. has assets of approximately $7.9 billion and its stock is traded under the symbol SCBT in the NASDAQ Global Select Market.

Non-GAAP Measures

Statements included in this press release include non-GAAP measures and should be read along with the accompanying tables which provide a reconciliation of non-GAAP measures to GAAP measures. Management believes that these non-GAAP measures provide additional useful information. Non-GAAP measures should not be considered as an alternative to any measure of performance or financial condition as promulgated under GAAP, and investors should consider the company's performance and financial condition as reported under GAAP and all other relevant information when assessing the performance or financial condition of the company. Non-GAAP measures have limitations as analytical tools, and investors should not consider them in isolation or as a substitute for analysis of the company's results or financial condition as reported under GAAP.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward Looking Statements

Statements included in this report which are not historical in nature are intended to be, and are hereby identified as, forward looking statements for purposes of the safe harbor provided by Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Forward looking statements generally include words such as “expects,” “projects,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “intends,” “estimates,” “strategy,” “plan,” “potential,” “possible” and other similar expressions. The Company cautions readers that forward looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from anticipated results. Such risks and uncertainties, include, among others, the following possibilities: (1) the outcome of any legal proceedings instituted against the Company; (2) credit risks associated with an obligor’s failure to meet the terms of any contract with the bank or otherwise fail to perform as agreed under the terms of any loan-related document; (3) interest risk involving the effect of a change in interest rates on the bank’s earnings, the market value of the bank's loan and securities portfolios, and the market value of the Company's equity; (4) liquidity risk affecting the bank’s ability to meet its obligations when they come due; (5) risks associated with an anticipated increase in the Company's investment securities portfolio, including risks associated with acquiring and holding investment securities or potentially determining that the amount of investment securities the Company desires to acquire are not available on terms acceptable to the Company; (6) price risk focusing on changes in market factors that may affect the value of traded instruments in “mark-to-market” portfolios; (7) transaction risk arising from problems with service or product delivery; (8) compliance risk involving risk to earnings or capital resulting from violations of or nonconformance with laws, rules, regulations, prescribed practices, or ethical standards; (9) regulatory change risk resulting from new laws, rules, regulations, accounting principles, proscribed practices or ethical standards, including, without limitation, increased capital requirements (including, without limitation, the impact of the capital rules adopted to implement Basel III), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rules and regulations, and potential changes in accounting principles relating to loan loss recognition; (10) strategic risk resulting from adverse business decisions or improper implementation of business decisions; (11) reputation risk that adversely affects earnings or capital arising from negative public opinion; (12) terrorist activities risk that results in loss of consumer confidence and economic disruptions; (13) cybersecurity risk related to our dependence on internal computer systems and the technology of outside service providers, as well as the potential impacts of third-party security breaches, subjects the company to potential business disruptions or financial losses resulting from deliberate attacks or unintentional events; (14) economic downturn risk potentially resulting in deterioration in the credit markets, greater than expected non-interest expenses, excessive loan losses and other negative consequences, which risks could be exacerbated by potential negative economic developments resulting from federal spending cuts and/or one or more federal budget-related impasses or actions; (15) greater than expected noninterest expenses; (16) excessive loan losses; (17) failure to realize synergies and other financial benefits from, and to limit liabilities associates with, mergers and acquisitions, including, without limitation, mergers with The Savannah Bancorp, Inc. (“Savannah”) and First Financial Holdings, Inc. ("FFCH"), within the expected time frame; (18) potential deposit attrition, higher than expected costs, customer loss and business disruption associated with merger and acquisition integration, including, without limitation, with respect to Savannah and FFCH, and including, without limitation, potential difficulties in maintaining relationships with key personnel and other integration related-matters; (19) the risks of fluctuations in market prices for Company common stock that may or may not reflect economic condition or performance of the Company; (20) the payment of dividends on Company common stock is subject to regulatory supervision as well as the discretion of the board of directors of the Company, the Company's performance and other factors; and (21) other risks and uncertainties disclosed in the Company's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC or disclosed in documents filed or furnished by the Company with or to the SEC after the filing of such Annual report on Form 10-K, any of which could cause actual results to differ materially from future results expressed, implied or otherwise anticipated by such forward looking statements. The Company undertakes no obligation to update or otherwise revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

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