Benchmark Bankshares Reports first quarter earnings

Published 12:54 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Benchmark Bankshares Inc. (BMBN), the Kenbridge-based hold­ing company for Benchmark Community Bank, announced earnings of $1,600,401, or 31 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2016, according to a press release from Benchmark.

This compares to $1,535,335, or 30 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2015. Return on average equity for the quarter was 10.48 percent and return on average assets was 1.21 percent, compared to 10.92 percent and 1.27 percent, respectively, reported for the first quarter of 2015.

Total loans as of March 31 amounted to $427.7 million, up $3.4 million for the quarter. Although loan growth was low during the first quarter, loans have increased by $29.2 million, or 7.3 percent, over the past 12 months. Yield on loans declined from 5.76 percent to 5.41 percent when comparing the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2015; however, the increase in loan volume generated interest and fees on loans of $5.7 million, up from $5.6 million last year, according to the release.

Total deposits at quarter-end amounted to $469.5 million, down from $474.5 million at year-end 2015 but up by $38.3 million from one year ago. The decrease in deposits was expected since several large municipalities that carry increased balances at year-end due to tax revenue often withdraw funds in the first quarter. The interest rate environment has continued to keep deposit rates low. Combined with a $17.1 million increase in non-interest checking accounts over the past year, the bank’s cost of funds has declined from 0.59 percent to 0.48 percent, thereby reducing interest expense for the quarter from $618 thousand to $555 thousand.

The bank’s net interest margin, while down from 4.84 percent, remains very strong at 4.49 percent, stated the release.

Net charge-offs for the quarter amounted to $23 thousand, down from $39 thousand charged off during the first quarter of 2015. Overall asset quality at the bank remains very strong as identified impaired loans and past due loans continue to decline.

With charge-offs remaining low, limited past due loans, and lower loan growth for the quarter, no provision was made to the reserve for loan losses during the quarter. Management provisioned $83 thousand to the loan loss reserve during the first quarter of 2015. The current loan loss reserve stands at $4.7 million, or 1.10 percent of total loans, compared to $4.6 million, or 1.15 percent of loans, one year ago.

Total expenses incurred to carry foreclosed assets (OREO) amounted to $174,539 for the quarter and included the $164,508 write down of one property. This was more than offset by the sale of three pre-refunded municipal bonds that resulted in a gain of $186,129.

The common stock of Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. trades on the OTC Pink marketplace under the symbol BMBN. Any stockbroker can assist with purchases of the company’s stock, as well as with sales of holdings.

Benchmark Community Bank, founded in 1971, is head­quartered in Kenbridge, and is the company’s sole subsidiary which oper­ates 12 banking offices through­out central Southside Vir­ginia and loan production offices in Wake Forest, N.C. and Henderson, N.C. Additional information is available at the company’s website,