Ratings: 42 Fla. banks 'severely troubled'

Twelve Florida banks have failed so far this year, but plenty of new, troubled institutions are stacking up behind them.

Forty-two banks based in Florida were rated "zero stars" (signifying severely troubled) in a new quarterly rating released by Bauer Financial on Monday. That translates to more than 14 percent of the 294 Florida institutions rated by Bauer.

As with previous Bauer reports, the flurry of zeros was largely concentrated in other pockets of the state: Naples, Bradenton, South Florida and parts of the Panhandle.

There were only two zero-star banks in the bay area: newcomer Bank of Florida Tampa Bay and a recurring candidate on the troubled list, First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay.

Bank of Florida, which fell from a two-star rating, is part of a three-affiliate, publicly traded institution based in Naples. Its two affiliate banks — Bank of Florida Southwest and Bank of Florida Southeast — were also in the "zero" category.

"Obviously, we're in some tough markets in Florida," said Roy Hellwege, who oversees all three affiliates as director of banking.

Yet, Hellwege said, Bauer's analysis fell short because it looked at each of the institutions on their own and not at the strength of a combined $97 million in common equity and $38 million in loan loss reserves.

"We have about $140 million to deal with our problem assets," he said. "If we had to, we could go to a single charter and combine our capital."

Hellwege, with SunTrust for 23 years, also cited as a strength the deep banking experience within management.

The bank last month postponed plans to raise up to $135 million in a public offering. Bank of Florida stock, as high as $10 a share in early 2008, has been trading below $3 since September. Shares fell 9 percent Monday to close at 59 cents.

The other local zero-star, First Commercial Bank, has been operating under a regulatory consent order to shore up its finances.

The sole bay area institution to receive a one-star or "troubled" rating was Synovus Bank of Tampa Bay.

On the upside, 16 banks statewide (or just over 5 percent) received a five-star "superior" rating. Among them were the First National Bank of Pasco in Dade City and Valrico State Bank in Valrico.

Simultaneous with the bank report, Bauer released its ratings analysis for credit unions. Only one of 180 Florida credit unions rated received zero stars: Sarasota Coastal Credit Union. Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union was a one-star.

Bauer rates institutions based on their financial data for the quarter ended Sept. 30.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8242. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jeffmharrington.

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For ratings for previous quarters, visit www.tampabay.com/banks/ratings. Find more consumer tips at fdic.gov.

Ratings: 42 Fla. banks 'severely troubled' 12/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 24, 2011 5:29pm]

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