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Robert Trigaux

New data: Florida banks' health still slipping



It comes as little shock that the health of Florida banks continued to deteriorate in the third quarter of 2008, according to data just compiled by Bauer Financial Inc. Weaker Florida banks rose to 52 in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 from 35 in the second quarter. The good news? Few banks based in the immediate Tampa Bay metro area are seriously struggling. The bad news? Lots of coastal area banks — especially from Bradenton south to Naples — that got caught in the speculative real estate boom are listed among Florida's worst bank performers.

The St. Petersburg Times will add these fresh numbers to its easy-to-search bank ratings database in the coming week when Bauer shares its numbers. New credit union ratings will also be available in the coming week. More on credit unions below.

Bauer rates banks by "stars" — zero through 5. A five-star bank is very healthy, a three-star bank is okay and two stars or fewer indicate trouble. A zero-star bank is in deep distress. Here's where to check Bauer Financial directly for the latest bank information, and here for credit union data.

Florida had 11 zero-star, the state's most vulnerable, banks as of the end of the third quarter, up from seven in the previous quarter. (One of those zero-star banks, Bradenton-based Freedom Bank —not to be confused with a St. Petersburg bank with a like name — failed on Oct. 31 and was sold by federal regulators to a Michigan bank.) Here are the state's 11 zero-star banks — the closest ones to the Tampa Bay market being in Sarasota and Ocala:

Bank of Bonifay, Bonifay, FL
BankUnited FSB, Coral Gables
Century Bank FSB, Sarasota
Federal Trust Bank, Sanford
Integrity Bank, Jupiter
Ocala National Bank, Ocala
Ocean Bank, Miami
Premier American Bank, Miami
Republic Federal Bank, Miami
Riverside of the Gulf Coast, Cape Coral
Vision Bank, Panama City

If  you do business with these banks, don't let soothing words of any of their executives lull you to sleep. Example: "As Century Bank's president, I want to assure you that Century Bank is positioned to weather these turbulent economic times," says a smiling John P. O'Neill, president of Sarasota's Century Bank on its Web site. Given Florida's deepening recession, these institutions are those most in need of new capital and most likely to face government seizure or a forced sale to a stronger bank.

How to protect yourself? Be absolutely sure that your deposits at these institutions fall below the federal deposit insurance limits as spelled out by the FDIC here. Deposit insurance limits recently increased from $100,000 to $250,000 — temporarily. The limits revert to $100,000 at the end of 2009. Pay attention to services like Bauer (and others) that track the health of financial institutions and choose to do business with healthy ones. And avoid ending up in low-ranked institutions in the first place. Plan ahead.

In the third quarter, the number of one-star banks — in trouble but  not as serious as a zero-star bank — rose to six across Florida from two in the previous quarter. Again, none are based in the immediate Tampa Bay metro area, but many are nearby. Here are the six:

Centerbank of Jacksonville
Commerce Bank of Southwest Florida, Fort Myers
Community National bank of Sarasota County, Venice
Flagship National Bank, Bradenton
Florida Community Bank, Immokalee
Peoples First Community Bank, Panama City

Thirty-five banks were declared two-star — weaker than they should be an in need of strengthening — in the third quarter, up from 26 in the prior period. There are three two-star banks in this area, including one in St. Petersburg, one in Tampa and one in Clearwater. Here are all 35:

Bank of Miami, Coral Gables
Bayside Savings Bank, Port St. Joe
Beach Community Bank, Fort Walton Beach
Coastal Community Bank, Panama City Beach
Community Bank of Cape Coral
Community Bank of Manatee, Bradenton
Espirito Santo Bank, Miami
First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay, Tampa
First Guaranty Bank & Trust of Jacksonville
First National Bank of Florida, Milton
First Peoples Bank, Port St. Lucie
Florida Capital Bank, Jacksonville
Great Florida Bank, Miami
Gulf State Community Bank, Carrabelle
Haven Trust Bank of Florida, Ponte Vedra Beach
Hillcrest Bank Florida, Naples
Horizon Bank, Bradenton
Key West Bank, Key West
Liberty Bank, Naples
Marco Community Bank, Naples
Oceanside Bank, Jacksonville Beach
Oculina Bank, Fort Pierce
Old Harbor Bank, Clearwater
Olde Cypress Community Bank, Clewiston
Orion Bank, Naples
Partners Bank, Naples
Peninsula Bank, Englewood
Prosperity Bank, St. Augustine
Riverside Bank of Central Florida, Winter Park
Riverside National Bank of Florida, Fort Pierce
Royal Palm Bank of Florida, Naples
Security Bank, North Lauderdale
Sun American Bank, Boca Raton
Synovus Bank of Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg
Vanguard Bank and Trust, Valparaiso

And what of the top performers, the five-star institutions in the state that have stayed out of trouble in difficult times? The number of five-star banks dwindled to 26 in the third quarter, from 40 in the second quarter and 71 in the first.

Finally, Bauer also lists Florida banks it calls "start-ups" — institutions still too young to have a track record to judge performance. Here are 13 start-ups in and around the Tampa Bay area, as of Sept. 30.

American Momentum Bank, Tampa
Central Bank, Tampa
First Avenue National Bank, Ocala
Florida Bank of Sarasota
Florida Traditions Bank, Dade City
Gateway Bank of Central Florida, Ocala
Gateway Bank of Southwest Florida, Sarasota
Gulfshore Bank, Tampa
Insignia Bank, Sarasota
Jefferson Bank of Florida, Oldsmar
Northstar Bank, Tampa
Sabal Palm Banks, Sarasota
USAmeribank, Largo

As for Florida's federally-insured credit unions, new Bauer Financial data show only one zero-star institution: Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union in Miramar. It was a zero-star credit union in the second quarter as well. Tampa's Bay Gulf Credit Union is the state's only federally-insured, one-star credit union. There are two two-star credit unions: Florida Episcopal FCU in Orlando and Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union in Tampa which, with more than $6-billion in assets, is the state's largest credit union.

— Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:23am]


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