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Florida bank recovery lagging

Florida's banking industry faces another stressful year of problem loans and likely more failures as it lags behind recovery elsewhere in the country.

Nearly 37 percent of Florida's banks are considered "troubled and problematic" in a third-quarter report released this week by Coral Gables ratings agency BauerFinancial. That's almost triple the national average of just under 13 percent.

Only two other states had a higher percentage of troubled institutions: Georgia (40 percent) and Arizona (38 percent).

Bauer's system assigns banks ratings of up to five stars based on financial health barometers like total of nonperforming assets and quarterly profit/loss. Institutions that receive two stars or less make it on the troubled bank list.

On average, more banks are improving across the country. Bauer said this was the first time since 2007 that 38 percent of the nation's banks earned a five-star rating.

Nationally, 60 percent of banks made Bauer's recommended list (four or five stars); only 18 percent of Florida banks made the cut. The number of troubled banks nationally is up about a half-percentage point; the number of troubled banks in Florida is up two percentage points.

So far this year, 28 Florida banks have failed. That represents almost 19 percent of all the failed banks nationally and is more than any other state.

Bauer president and director of research Karen Dorway said Florida's recovery is expected to take longer because of the state's heavy dependence on real estate. "However, Florida has historically been a great market for banks," she added, "and we would expect to see that again as the recovery grabs hold in earnest."

As the Times reported earlier this week, six bay area banks received Bauer's lowest rating of zero stars: First Community Bank of America in Pinellas Park, Old Harbor Bank in Clearwater, Southshore Community Bank in Apollo Beach, First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay in Tampa, Southern Commerce Bank in Tampa and Cortez Community Bank in Brooksville.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@sptimes.com.

For a look at how your bank is doing, go to www.tampabay.com/banks/ratings

Florida bank recovery lagging 12/10/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 24, 2011 5:24pm]
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