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On Mar 12, Zacks Investment Research upgraded First Connecticut Bancorp, Inc. (FBNK - Snapshot Report) to Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

First Connecticut has been witnessing rising earnings estimates owing to strong fourth quarter 2012 results. Moreover, this regional bank delivered positive earnings surprises in 3 of the last 4 quarters with an average beat of 44.4%.

First Connecticut reported fourth-quarter results on Mar 1. Earnings came in at 20 cents per share, significantly outpacing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 6 cents and reversing the year-ago loss of 9 cents. Results were primarily aided by a solid top-line growth, partially offset by a rise in expenses.

Net interest income surged 14.1% year over year to $14.1 million. Further, non-interest income advanced substantially to $4.1 million. Operating expenses grew 1.9% year over year to $13.0 million.

Improvement in asset quality continues to be a major positive for First Connecticut. Provision for allowance for loan losses declined significantly from the prior-year quarter to $0.3 million. Likewise, nonperforming loans stood at 0.76% of total loans, down 20 basis points year over year.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 57.1% to 44 cents per share over the last 30 days. For 2014, over the same time frame, the Zacks Consensus Estimate moved north by 4.4% to 48 cents per share.

Other Stocks to Consider

Besides First Connecticut, other regional banks such as The Bancorp Inc. (TBBK - Snapshot Report), Center Bancorp Inc. and Old National Bancorp. (ONB - Snapshot Report) carry a Zacks Rank #1 and are worth considering.

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