Originally created 01/30/97

Strong loan growth increases Georgia Bank's earnings



Customers' loan volume for the year helped propel Georgia Bank Financial Corp.'s earnings 39.6 percent higher per share for 1996 over 1995, the Augusta-based bank holding company announced Wednesday.

Fourth-quarter earnings per share were 55 percent higher than 1995 fourth-quarter earnings, the closely held parent of Georgia Bank & Trust reported.

Net income for the fourth quarter was $653,000, or 42 cents per share, compared with $416,000, or 27 cents per, for the 1995 quarter.

Net income for 1996 was $2 million, or $1.27 per share, compared with $1.4 million, or 91 cents per share, in 1995.

"Record earnings for the year reflect strong loan growth, which generated net interest income growth of 16 percent in addition to other revenue growth of 38 percent," said Ronald L. Thigpen, chief financial officer.

The strong loan growth could be attributed to growth in development in metropolitan Augusta, leading to commercial loans and growth in Georgia Bank & Trust's market share, "where we are able to secure a larger segment of the market," Mr. Thigpen said.

Although Georgia Bank & Trust has been in Columbia County for some time, regional banks such as Wachovia and SunTrust Bank, Augusta, are or will be locating branches in the growing market.

Both banks have parent companies outside metro Augusta, although SunTrust, Augusta, is chartered in Augusta.

"We feel very strongly that the Augusta community will continue to respond to a local institution that knows their customers and can provide local decision-making," he said.

"Acceptance of the company's community-oriented operating philosophy continues to accelerate market share growth," Mr. Thigpen said.

He said the market growth is reflected in the overall increase in total assets to $216 million for 1996, a 20.6 percent increase over 1995.

The company operates seven offices in the metropolitan Augusta market.