Tuesday, July 22, 2003

First Financial posts 17.2% drop in profits



By Jeff McKinney
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Lower-interest income caused the parent of First Financial Bank to post a 17.2 percent drop in second-quarter profits.

Hamilton-based First Financial Bancorp earned $10.6 million, or 24 cents a share, down from $13.4 million, or 29 cents a share, during last year's second quarter.

The drop came as First Financial's net interest income, the main source of profits for most banks, fell almost 11 percent - to $4.5 million - from a year ago.

The bank's net interest margin - the difference between what it makes on loans and pays on deposits - dropped to 4.17 percent from 4.81 percent in last year's second quarter.

Falling interest rates basically caused First Financial to earn less money on loans. The bank also was unable to offset that drop by not being able to cut deposit rates point for point, reducing the spread.

With assets of $3.9 billion, First Financial is one of the Tristate's largest banking and thrift companies. It operates 103 branches in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan.

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E-mail jmckinney@enquirer.com.




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