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On Apr 6, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Columbia Banking System Inc. (COLB - Snapshot Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

Columbia Banking has been witnessing rising earnings estimates owing to the completion of its acquisition and a hike in its quarterly cash dividend. Moreover, this regional bank has a long-term earnings growth forecast of 11.0%.

On Apr 1, 2013, Columbia Banking announced the closure of its acquisition of West Coast Bancorp. Upon completion, the company’s total assets exceeded $7.0 billion, with 157 branches in Wash. and Oregon. This cash and stock deal was announced in Sep 2012.

Additionally, in Jan 2013, Colombia Banking announced a 10% rise in its quarterly cash dividend. The cash dividend of 10 cents per share was paid on Feb 20 to shareholders of record on Feb 6. Hence, the company’s dividend yield currently stands at 1.88%.

Moreover, Colombia Banking’s fourth quarter earnings were 13.3% above the Zacks Consensus Estimate. Better-than-expected results were aided by an increase in fee income and decrease in operating expenses. These were partially offset by a decline in net interest income.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for first quarter 2013 is pegged at 31 cents per share along with a revenue estimate of $70 million. Moreover, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 4.5% to $1.40 per share over the last 60 days.

Other Stocks to Consider

Besides Colombia Banking, other regional banks such as, Glacier Bancorp Inc. (GBCI - Snapshot Report), The Bancorp Inc. (TBBK - Snapshot Report) and First Connecticut Bancorp, Inc. (FBNK - Snapshot Report) carry a Zacks Rank #1 and are worth considering.

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