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Section 1: 10-K (10-K)

 

 

  

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

xANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2015, or

 

¨TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the transition period from              to             .

 

Commission File Number

001-13901

 

AMERIS BANCORP

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

GEORGIA 58-1456434
(State of incorporation) (IRS Employer ID No.)

 

310 FIRST ST., SE, MOULTRIE, GA 31768

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(229) 890-1111

(Registrant’s telephone number)  

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act: Common Stock, Par Value $1 Per Share

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None  

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.    Yes  x    No  ¨

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act.    Yes  ¨    No  x

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.    Yes  x    No  ¨

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).    Yes  x    No  ¨

 

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  ¨

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer or a smaller reporting company. See definitions of “large accelerated filer”, “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer x Accelerated filer ¨
       
Non-accelerated filer ¨ Smaller reporting company ¨

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Securities Exchange Act).    Yes  ¨    No  x

 

As of the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, the aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by nonaffiliates of the registrant was approximately $788.7 million.

 

As of February 18, 2016, the registrant had outstanding 32,211,385 shares of common stock, $1.00 par value per share.  

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

Portions of the registrant’s Proxy Statement for the 2016 Annual Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated into Part III hereof by reference.

 

 

 

   

 

 

AMERIS BANCORP

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

    Page
PART I    
Item 1. Business   1
       
Item 1A. Risk Factors   17
       
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments   24
       
Item 2. Properties   24
       
Item 3. Legal Proceedings   24
       
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures   24
     
PART II    
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities   25
       
Item 6. Selected Financial Data   27
       
Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations   29
       
Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk   56
       
Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data   57
       
Item 9. Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure   57
       
Item 9A. Controls and Procedures   57
       
Item 9B. Other Information   57
     
PART III    
Item 10. Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance   57
       
Item 11. Executive Compensation   57
       
Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters   58
       
Item 13. Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence   58
       
Item 14. Principal Accounting Fees and Services   58
     
PART IV    
Item 15. Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules   58

 

   

 

  

CAUTIONARY NOTICE

REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

 

Certain statements contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K (this “Annual Report”) under the caption “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and elsewhere, including information incorporated herein by reference to other documents, are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of, and subject to the protections of, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”).

 

Forward-looking statements include statements with respect to our beliefs, plans, objectives, goals, expectations, anticipations, assumptions, estimates, intentions and future performance and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, many of which may be beyond our control and which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of Ameris Bancorp to be materially different from future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements.

 

All statements other than statements of historical fact are statements that could be forward-looking statements. You can identify these forward-looking statements through our use of words such as “may,” “will,” “anticipate,” “assume,” “should,” “indicate,” “would,” “believe,” “contemplate,” “expect,” “estimate,” “continue,” “plan,” “point to,” “project,” “predict,” “could,” “intend,” “target,” “potential” and other similar words and expressions of the future. These forward-looking statements may not be realized due to a variety of factors, including, without limitation, those described in Part I, Item 1A., “Risk Factors,” and elsewhere in this report and those described from time to time in our future reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) under the Exchange Act.

 

All written or oral forward-looking statements that are made by or are attributable to us are expressly qualified in their entirety by this cautionary notice. Our forward-looking statements apply only as of the date of this Annual Report or the respective date of the document from which they are incorporated herein by reference. We have no obligation and do not undertake to update, revise or correct any of the forward-looking statements after the date of this Annual Report, or after the respective dates on which such statements otherwise are made, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

 

PART I

 

As used in this Annual Report, the terms “we,” “us,” “our,” “Ameris” and the “Company” refer to Ameris Bancorp and its subsidiaries (unless the context indicates another meaning).

 

ITEM 1. BUSINESS

 

OVERVIEW

 

We are a financial holding company whose business is conducted primarily through our wholly owned banking subsidiary, Ameris Bank (the “Bank”), which provides a full range of banking services to its retail and commercial customers who are primarily concentrated in select markets in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. Ameris was incorporated on December 18, 1980 as a Georgia corporation. The Company’s executive office is located at 310 First St., S.E., Moultrie, Georgia 31768, our telephone number is (229) 890-1111 and our internet address is www.amerisbank.com. We operate 101 domestic banking offices, with eight of those locations announced to be consolidated within the coming months. We do not operate in any foreign activities. At December 31, 2015, we had approximately $5.59 billion in total assets, $4.02 billion in total loans, $4.88 billion in total deposits and stockholders’ equity of $514.8 million. Our deposits are insured, up to applicable limits, by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (the “FDIC”).

 

We make our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act available free of charge on our website at www.amerisbank.com as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with the SEC. These reports are also available without charge on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov.

 

The Parent Company

 

Our primary business as a bank holding company is to manage the business and affairs of the Bank. As a bank holding company, we perform certain shareholder and investor relations functions and seek to provide financial support, if necessary, to the Bank.

 

Ameris Bank

 

Our principal subsidiary is the Bank, which is headquartered in Moultrie, Georgia and operates branches primarily concentrated in select markets in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. These branches serve distinct communities in our business areas with autonomy but do so as one bank, leveraging our favorable geographic footprint in an effort to acquire more customers.

 

 1 

 

 

Capital Trust Securities

 

On September 20, 2006, the Company completed a private placement of an aggregate of $36 million of trust preferred securities. The placement occurred through a statutory trust subsidiary of Ameris, Ameris Statutory Trust I (the “Trust”). The trust preferred securities carry a quarterly adjustable interest rate of 1.63% over the 3-Month LIBOR. The trust preferred securities mature on December 15, 2036, and became redeemable at the Company’s option on September 15, 2011. 

 

On December 16, 2005, Ameris acquired First National Banc, Inc. (“FNB”) by merger. In connection with such transaction, Ameris assumed the obligations of FNB related to its prior issuance of trust preferred securities. In 2004, FNB’s statutory trust subsidiary, First National Banc Statutory Trust I, issued $5,000,000 in principal amount of trust preferred securities at a rate per annum equal to the 3-Month LIBOR plus 2.80% through a pool sponsored by a national brokerage firm. These trust preferred securities have a maturity of 30 years and are redeemable at the Company’s option on any quarterly interest payment date.

 

On December 23, 2013, Ameris acquired The Prosperity Banking Company (“Prosperity”) by merger. In connection with such transaction, Ameris assumed the obligations of Prosperity related to the following issuances of trust preferred securities: (i) in 2003, Prosperity’s statutory trust subsidiary, Prosperity Bank Statutory Trust II, issued $4,500,000 in principal amount of trust preferred securities at a rate per annum equal to the 3-Month LIBOR plus 3.15%; (ii) in 2004, Prosperity’s statutory trust subsidiary, Prosperity Banking Capital Trust 1, issued $5,000,000 in principal amount of trust preferred securities at a rate per annum equal to the 90-Day LIBOR plus 2.57%; (iii) in 2006, Prosperity’s statutory trust subsidiary, Prosperity Bank Statutory Trust III, issued $10,000,000 in principal amount of trust preferred securities at a rate per annum equal to the 90-Day LIBOR plus 1.60%; and (iv) in 2007, Prosperity’s statutory trust subsidiary, Prosperity Bank Statutory Trust IV, issued $10,000,000 in principal amount of trust preferred securities at a rate per annum equal to the 90-Day LIBOR plus 1.54%. Each of the foregoing issuances was consummated through a pool sponsored by a national brokerage firm. These trust preferred securities have a maturity of 30 years and are redeemable at the Company’s option on any quarterly interest payment date.

 

On June 30, 2014, Ameris acquired Coastal Bankshares, Inc. (“Coastal”) by merger. In connection with such transaction, Ameris assumed the obligations of Coastal related to the following issuances of trust preferred securities: (i) in 2003, Coastal’s statutory trust subsidiary, Coastal Bankshares Statutory Trust I, issued $5,000,000 in principal amount of trust preferred securities at a rate per annum equal to the 3-Month LIBOR plus 3.15%; and (ii) in 2005, Coastal’s statutory trust subsidiary, Coastal Bankshares Statutory Trust II, issued $10,000,000 in principal amount of trust preferred securities at a rate per annum equal to the 3-Month LIBOR plus 1.60%. Each of the foregoing issuances was consummated through a pool sponsored by a national brokerage firm. These trust preferred securities have a maturity of 30 years and are redeemable at the Company’s option on any quarterly interest payment date.

 

On May 22, 2015, Ameris acquired Merchants & Southern Banks of Florida, Incorporated (“Merchants”) by merger. In connection with such transaction, Ameris assumed the obligations of Merchants related to the following issuances of trust preferred securities: (i) in 2005, Merchants’ statutory trust subsidiary, Merchants & Southern Statutory Trust I, issued $3,000,000 in principal amount of trust preferred securities at a rate per annum equal to the 3-Month LIBOR plus 1.90%; and (ii) in 2006, Merchants’ statutory trust subsidiary, Merchants & Southern Statutory Trust II, issued $3,000,000 in principal amount of trust preferred securities at a rate per annum equal to the 3-Month LIBOR plus 1.50%. Each of the foregoing issuances was consummated through a pool sponsored by a national brokerage firm. These trust preferred securities have a maturity of 30 years and are redeemable at the Company’s option on any quarterly interest payment date.

 

See the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements included in this Annual Report for a further discussion of these trust preferred securities.

 

Strategy

 

We seek to increase our presence and grow the “Ameris” brand in the markets that we currently serve in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina and in neighboring communities that present attractive opportunities for expansion. Management has pursued this objective through an acquisition-oriented growth strategy and a prudent operating strategy. Our community banking philosophy emphasizes personalized service and building broad and deep customer relationships, which has provided us with a substantial base of low cost core deposits. Our markets are managed by senior level, experienced decision makers in a decentralized structure that differentiates us from our larger competitors. Management believes that this structure, along with involvement in and knowledge of our local markets, will continue to provide growth and assist in managing risk throughout our Company.

 2 

 

 

We have maintained our focus on a long-term strategy of expanding and diversifying our franchise in terms of revenues, profitability and asset size. Our growth over the past several years has been enhanced significantly by bank acquisitions, including the purchase of 18 retail branches from Bank of America in 2015 and the acquisition of Merchants in 2015, Coastal in 2014, Prosperity in 2013 and ten failed institutions in FDIC-assisted transactions between 2009 and 2012. We expect to continue to take advantage of the consolidation in the financial services industry and enhance our franchise through future acquisitions. We intend to grow within our existing markets, to branch into or acquire financial institutions in existing markets as well as financial institutions in other markets consistent with our capital availability and management abilities.

 

BANKING SERVICES

 

Lending Activities

 

General. The Company maintains a diversified loan portfolio by providing a broad range of commercial and retail lending services to business entities and individuals. We provide agricultural loans, commercial business loans, commercial and residential real estate construction and mortgage loans, consumer loans, revolving lines of credit and letters of credit. The Company also originates first mortgage residential mortgage loans and generally enters into a commitment to sell these loans in the secondary market. We have not made or participated in foreign, energy-related or subprime type loans. In addition, the Company does not buy loan participations or portions of national credits but from time to time, may acquire balances subject to participation agreements through acquisition. Excluding covered loans, less than 1% of the Company’s loan portfolio was a loan participation purchased at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

At December 31, 2015, our loan portfolio totaled approximately $4.02 billion, representing approximately 71.9% of our total assets. For additional discussion of our loan portfolio, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Loans.”

 

Commercial Real Estate Loans. This portion of our loan portfolio has grown significantly over the past few years and represents the largest segment of our loan portfolio. These loans are generally extended for acquisition, development or construction of commercial properties. The loans are underwritten with an emphasis on the viability of the project, the borrower’s ability to meet certain minimum debt service requirements and an analysis and review of the collateral and guarantors, if any.

 

Residential Real Estate Mortgage Loans. Ameris originates adjustable and fixed-rate residential mortgage loans. These mortgage loans are generally originated under terms and conditions consistent with secondary market guidelines. Some of these loans will be placed in the Company’s loan portfolio; however, a majority are sold in the secondary market. The residential real estate mortgage loans that are included in the Company’s loan portfolio are usually owner-occupied and generally amortized over a 10- to 20-year period with three- to five-year maturity or repricing.

 

Agricultural Loans. Our agricultural loans are extended to finance crop production, the purchase of farm-related equipment or farmland and the operations of dairies, poultry producers, livestock producers and timber growers. Agricultural loans typically involve seasonal balance fluctuations. Although we typically look to an agricultural borrower’s cash flow as the principal source of repayment, agricultural loans are also generally secured by a security interest in the crops or the farm-related equipment and, in some cases, an assignment of crop insurance and mortgage on real estate. The lending officer visits the borrower regularly during the growing season and re-evaluates the loan in light of the borrower’s updated cash flow projections. A portion of our agricultural loans is guaranteed by the Farm Service Agency Guaranteed Loan Program.

 

Commercial and Industrial Loans. Generally, commercial and industrial loans consist of loans made primarily to manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of goods, service companies, municipalities and other industries. These loans are made for acquisition, expansion and working capital purposes and may be secured by real estate, accounts receivable, inventory, equipment, personal guarantees or other assets. The Company monitors these loans by requesting submission of corporate and personal financial statements and income tax returns. The Company has also generated loans which are guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (the “SBA”). SBA loans are generally underwritten in the same manner as conventional loans generated for the Bank’s portfolio. Periodically, a portion of the loans that are secured by the guaranty of the SBA will be sold in the secondary market. Management believes that making such loans helps the local community and also provides Ameris with a source of income and solid future lending relationships as such businesses grow and prosper. The primary repayment risk for commercial loans is the failure of the business due to economic or financial factors.

 

Consumer Loans. Our consumer loans include motor vehicle, home improvement, home equity, student and signature loans and small personal credit lines. The terms of these loans typically range from 12 to 60 months and vary based upon the nature of collateral and size of the loan. These loans are generally secured by various assets owned by the consumer.

 

 3 

 

 

Credit Administration

 

We have sought to maintain a comprehensive lending policy that meets the credit needs of each of the communities served by the Bank, including low and moderate-income customers, and to employ lending procedures and policies consistent with this approach. All loans are subject to our corporate loan policy, which is reviewed annually and updated as needed. The loan policy provides that lending officers have sole authority to approve loans of various amounts commensurate with their seniority, experience and needs within the market. Our local market Presidents have discretion to approve loans in varying principal amounts up to established limits, and our regional credit officers review and approve loans that exceed such limits.

 

Individual lending authority is assigned by the Company’s Chief Credit Officer, as is the maximum limit of new extensions of credit that may be approved in each market. These approval limits are reviewed annually by the Company and adjusted as needed. All requests for extensions of credit in excess of any of these limits are reviewed by one of four regional credit officers. When the request for approval exceeds the authority level of the regional credit officer, the approval of the Company’s Chief Credit Officer and/or the Company’s loan committee are required. All new loans or modifications to existing loans in excess of $250,000 are reviewed monthly by the Company’s credit administration department with the lender responsible for the credit. In addition, our ongoing loan review program subjects the portfolio to sampling and objective review by our monthly internal loan review process which is independent of the originating loan officer.

 

Each lending officer has authority to make loans only in the market area in which his or her Bank office is located and its contiguous counties. Occasionally, our loan committee will approve making a loan outside of the market areas of the Bank, provided the Bank has a prior relationship with the borrower. Our lending policy requires analysis of the borrower’s projected cash flow and ability to service the debt.

 

We actively market our services to qualified lending customers in both the commercial and consumer sectors. Our commercial lending officers actively solicit the business of new companies entering the market as well as longstanding members of that market’s business community. Through personalized professional service and competitive pricing, we have been successful in attracting new commercial lending customers. At the same time, we actively advertise our consumer loan products and continually seek to make our lending officers more accessible.

 

The Bank continually monitors its loan portfolio to identify areas of concern and to enable management to take corrective action when necessary. Local market Presidents and lending officers meet periodically to review all past due loans, the status of large loans and certain other credit or economic related matters. Individual lending officers are responsible for collection of past due amounts and monitoring any changes in the financial status of the borrowers.

 

Investment Activities

 

Our investment policy is designed to maximize income from funds not needed to meet loan demand in a manner consistent with appropriate liquidity and risk management objectives. Under this policy, our Company may invest in federal, state and municipal obligations, corporate obligations, public housing authority bonds, industrial development revenue bonds, securities issued by Government-Sponsored Enterprises (“GSEs”) and satisfactorily-rated trust preferred obligations. Investments in our portfolio must satisfy certain quality criteria. Our Company’s investments must be “investment-grade” as determined by either Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s. Investment securities where the Company has determined a certain level of credit risk are periodically reviewed to determine the financial condition of the issuer and to support the Company’s decision to continue holding the security. Our Company may purchase non-rated municipal bonds only if the issuer of such bonds is located in the Company’s general market area and such bonds are determined by the Company to have a credit risk no greater than the minimum ratings referred to above. Industrial development authority bonds, which normally are not rated, are purchased only if the issuer is located in the Company’s market area and if the bonds are considered to possess a high degree of credit soundness. Traditionally, the Company has purchased and held investment securities with very high levels of credit quality, favoring investments backed by direct or indirect guarantees of the U.S. Government.

 

While our investment policy permits our Company to trade securities to improve the quality of yields or marketability or to realign the composition of the portfolio, the Bank historically has not done so to any significant extent.

 

Our investment committee implements the investment policy and portfolio strategies and monitors the portfolio. Reports on all purchases, sales, net profits or losses and market appreciation or depreciation of the bond portfolio are reviewed by our Board of Directors each month. The written investment policy is reviewed annually by the Company’s Board of Directors and updated as needed.

 

The Company’s securities are held in safekeeping accounts at approved correspondent banks.

 

 4 

 

 

Deposits

 

The Company provides a full range of deposit accounts and services to both retail and commercial customers. These deposit accounts have a variety of interest rates and terms and consist of interest-bearing and noninterest-bearing accounts, including commercial and retail checking accounts, regular interest-bearing savings accounts, money market accounts, individual retirement accounts and certificates of deposit. Our Bank obtains most of its deposits from individuals and businesses in its market areas.

 

Brokered time deposits are deposits obtained by utilizing an outside broker that is paid a fee. The Bank utilizes brokered deposits to accomplish several purposes, such as (i) acquiring a certain maturity and dollar amount without repricing the Bank’s current customers which could increase or decrease the overall cost of deposits and (ii) acquiring certain maturities and dollar amounts to help manage interest rate risk.

 

Other Funding Sources

 

The Federal Home Loan Bank (“FHLB”) allows the Company to obtain advances through its credit program. These advances are secured by securities owned by the Company and held in safekeeping by the FHLB, FHLB stock owned by the Company and certain qualifying residential mortgages. The Company has a revolving credit agreement with a regional bank, secured by subsidiary bank stock, and the Company maintains credit arrangements with various other financial institutions to purchase federal funds. The Company participates in the Federal Reserve discount window borrowings.

 

The Company also enters into repurchase agreements. These repurchase agreements are treated as short-term borrowings and are reflected on the Company’s balance sheet as such.

 

Use of Derivatives

 

The Company seeks to provide a stable net interest income despite changes in interest rates. In its review of interest rate risk, the Company considers the use of derivatives to protect interest income on loans or to create a structure in institutional borrowings that limits the Company’s cost. During 2014 and 2015, the Company had an interest rate swap with a notional amount of $37.1 million for the purpose of converting from a variable to a fixed interest rate on the junior subordinated debentures on the Company’s balance sheet. The interest rate swap, which is classified as a cash flow hedge, is indexed to LIBOR.

 

Additionally, the Company maintains a risk management program to manage interest rate risk and pricing risk associated with its mortgage lending activities. This program includes the use of forward contracts and other derivatives that are used to offset changes in the value of the mortgage inventory due to changes in market interest rates. As a normal part of its operations, the Company enters into derivative contracts such as forward sale commitments and interest rate lock commitments (“IRLCs”) to economically hedge risks associated with overall price risk related to IRLCs and mortgage loans held for sale carried at fair value. The fair value of these instruments amounted to an asset of approximately $2,687,000 and $1,757,000 at December 31, 2015 and 2014, respectively, and a derivative liability of approximately $137,000 and $249,000 at December 31, 2015 and 2014, respectively.

 

CORPORATE RESTRUCTURING AND BUSINESS COMBINATIONS

 

Jacksonville Bancorp, Inc.

 

On September 30, 2015, Ameris entered into an Agreement and Plan of Merger (the “Merger Agreement”) to acquire Jacksonville Bancorp, Inc. (“JAXB”), the holding company of The Jacksonville Bank. JAXB is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida and operates eight full-service branches in Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach, Duval County, Florida, as well as one virtual branch.  Under the terms and subject to the conditions of the Merger Agreement, JAXB’s shareholders will have the right to receive 0.5861 shares of Ameris common stock or $16.50 in cash for each share of the common stock and nonvoting common stock of JAXB they hold. The total consideration in the merger will be prorated as necessary to ensure that 25% of the total outstanding shares of common stock and nonvoting common stock of JAXB will be exchanged for cash and 75% of the total outstanding shares of common stock and nonvoting common stock of JAXB will be exchanged for shares of Ameris common stock. The transaction is expected to close in March 2016 and is subject to customary closing conditions. All required regulatory approvals for the transaction have been received. As of September 30, 2015, JAXB reported assets of $505.3 million, gross loans of $399.5 million and deposits of $433.0 million.

 

Merchants & Southern Banks of Florida, Inc.

 

On May 22, 2015, Ameris acquired Merchants by merger, at which time Merchants’ wholly owned banking subsidiary, Merchants and Southern Bank, also was merged with and into the Bank. Merchants was headquartered in Gainesville, Florida and operated thirteen banking locations in Alachua, Marion and Clay Counties in Florida.  The acquisition of Merchants was significant to the Company’s growth strategy, as it expanded our existing footprint in several attractive Florida markets. Ameris paid an aggregate purchase price of $50.0 million to acquire the stock of Merchants.

 

 5 

 

 

Acquisition of 18 Branches in North Florida and South Georgia

 

On June 12, 2015, Ameris completed the acquisition of 18 branches from Bank of America, National Association located in Calhoun, Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Suwanee and Walton Counties, Florida and Ben Hill, Colquitt, Dougherty, Laurens, Liberty, Thomas, Tift and Ware Counties, Georgia. Ameris acquired approximately $645 million in deposits and paid a deposit premium of $20.0 million, equal to 3.00% of the average daily deposits for the 15 calendar-day period immediately prior to the acquisition date. In addition, Ameris acquired approximately $4.0 million in loans and $10.7 million in premises and equipment.

 

Coastal Bankshares, Inc.

 

On June 30, 2014, Ameris acquired Coastal by merger, at which time Coastal’s wholly owned banking subsidiary, The Coastal Bank (“Coastal Bank”), also was merged with and into the Bank. Coastal was headquartered in Savannah, Georgia and it operated six banking locations in Chatham, Liberty and Effingham Counties in Georgia.  The acquisition of Coastal grew the Company’s existing market presence in the Savannah, Georgia market.  The consideration for the acquisition was our common stock, par value $1.00 per share (the “Common Stock”), with an aggregate purchase price of approximately $37.3 million.  The total consideration consisted of approximately 1,599,000 shares of Common Stock with a value of approximately $34.5 million and $2.8 million cash in exchange for outstanding warrants.

 

The Prosperity Banking Company

 

On December 23, 2013, Ameris acquired Prosperity by merger, at which time Prosperity’s wholly owned banking subsidiary, Prosperity Bank (“Prosperity Bank”), also was merged with and into the Bank. Prosperity was headquartered in Saint Augustine, Florida and it operated 12 banking locations in St. Johns, Duval, Flagler, Bay, Putnam and Volusia Counties in northeast Florida and the Florida panhandle.  The acquisition of Prosperity was significant to the Company, as it expanded our existing Southeastern footprint in several attractive Florida markets.  The consideration for the acquisition was a combination of cash and our Common Stock, with an aggregate purchase price of approximately $24.6 million.  The total consideration consisted of $162,000 in cash and approximately 1,169,000 shares of Common Stock with a value of approximately $24.5 million.

 

Montgomery Bank & Trust

 

On July 6, 2012, the Bank purchased certain assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of Montgomery Bank & Trust (“MBT”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of MBT. MBT operated two branches in Ailey and Vidalia, Georgia. The Bank assumed approximately $156.7 million in customer deposits and acquired approximately $18.1 million in assets, including approximately $16.7 million in cash and cash equivalents and approximately $1.2 million in deposit-secured loans. The assets were acquired without a discount and the deposits were assumed with no premium. To settle the transaction, the FDIC made a cash payment to the Bank totaling approximately $138.7 million, based on the differential between liabilities assumed and assets acquired.

 

Central Bank of Georgia

 

On February 24, 2012, the Bank purchased substantially all of the assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of Central Bank of Georgia (“CBG”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of CBG. CBG operated five branches in Ellaville, Buena Vista, Butler, Cusseta and Macon, Georgia, with approximately $182.6 million in loans and approximately $261.0 million in deposits. The Company’s agreements with the FDIC included a loss-sharing agreement which affords the Bank significant protection from losses associated with loans and other real estate owned (“OREO”). Under the terms of the loss-sharing agreement, the FDIC will absorb 80% of losses and share 80% of loss recoveries during the term of the agreement. The term for loss sharing on residential real estate loans is ten years, while the term for loss sharing on all other loans is five years.

 

The Company’s bid to acquire CBG included a discount on the book value of the assets totaling $33.9 million. The bid resulted in a cash payment from the FDIC totaling $31.9 million.

 

High Trust Bank

 

On July 15, 2011, the Bank purchased substantially all of the assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of High Trust Bank (“HTB”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of HTB. HTB operated two branches in Stockbridge and Leary, Georgia, with approximately $133.5 million in loans and approximately $175.9 million in deposits. The Company’s agreements with the FDIC included a loss-sharing agreement which affords the Bank significant protection from losses associated with loans and OREO. Under the terms of the loss-sharing agreement, the FDIC will absorb 80% of losses and share 80% of loss recoveries during the term of the agreement. The term for loss sharing on residential real estate loans is ten years, while the term for loss sharing on all other loans is five years.

 

The Company’s bid to acquire HTB included a discount on the book value of the assets totaling $33.5 million. The bid resulted in a cash payment from the FDIC totaling $30.2 million.

 

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One Georgia Bank

 

On July 15, 2011, the Bank purchased substantially all of the assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of One Georgia Bank (“OGB”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of OGB. OGB operated one branch in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia, with approximately $120.8 million in loans and approximately $136.1 million in deposits. The Company’s agreements with the FDIC included a loss-sharing agreement which affords the Bank significant protection from losses associated with loans and OREO. Under the terms of the loss-sharing agreement, the FDIC will absorb 80% of losses and share 80% of loss recoveries during the term of the agreement. The term for loss sharing on residential real estate loans is ten years, while the term for loss sharing on all other loans is five years.

 

The Company’s bid to acquire OGB included a discount on the book value of the assets totaling $22.5 million. The bid resulted in a cash payment to the FDIC totaling $5.7 million.

 

Tifton Banking Company

 

On November 12, 2010, the Bank purchased substantially all of the assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of Tifton Banking Company (“TBC”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of TBC. TBC operated one branch in Tifton, Georgia, with approximately $118.4 million in loans and approximately $132.9 million in deposits. The Company’s agreements with the FDIC included a loss-sharing agreement which affords the Bank significant protection from losses associated with loans and OREO. Under the terms of the loss-sharing agreement, the FDIC will absorb 80% of losses and share 80% of loss recoveries during the term of the agreement. The term for loss sharing on residential real estate loans is ten years, while the term for loss sharing on all other loans was five years.

 

The Company’s acquisition of TBC resulted in the Bank recording $956,000 of goodwill related to the purchase. The bid resulted in a cash payment to the FDIC totaling $10.3 million to settle the transaction.

 

Darby Bank & Trust Co.

 

On November 12, 2010, the Bank purchased substantially all of the assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of Darby Bank & Trust Co. (“DBT”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of DBT. DBT operated seven branches in Vidalia, Lyons, Savannah and Pooler, Georgia, with approximately $393.3 million in loans and approximately $387.0 million in deposits. The Company’s agreements with the FDIC included a loss-sharing agreement which affords the Bank significant protection from losses associated with loans and OREO. The loss-sharing agreements for residential real estate loans and for all other loans are separately structured with reimbursement percentages dependent on the losses incurred under the specific agreement. Under the residential real estate agreement, losses up to $8.4 million are reimbursed at 80%, losses between $8.4 million and $11.8 million are reimbursed at 30%, and losses in excess of $11.8 million are reimbursed at 80%. Under the all other agreement, losses up to $123.4 million are reimbursed at 80%, losses between $123.4 million and $181.3 million are reimbursed at 30%, and losses in excess of $181.3 million are reimbursed at 80%. The term for loss sharing on residential real estate loans is ten years, while the term for loss sharing on all other loans was five years.

 

The Company’s bid to acquire DBT included a discount on the book value of the assets totaling $45.0 million. The bid resulted in a cash payment to the FDIC totaling $149.9 million.

 

First Bank of Jacksonville

 

On October 22, 2010, the Bank purchased substantially all of the assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of First Bank of Jacksonville (“FBJ”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of FBJ. FBJ operated two branches in Jacksonville, Florida, with approximately $51.1 million in loans and approximately $71.9 million in deposits. The Company’s agreements with the FDIC included a loss-sharing agreement which affords the Bank significant protection from losses associated with loans and OREO. Under the terms of the loss-sharing agreement, the FDIC will absorb 80% of losses and share 80% of loss recoveries during the term of the agreement. The term for loss sharing on residential real estate loans is ten years, while the term for loss sharing on all other loans was five years.

 

The Company’s bid to acquire FBJ included a discount on the book value of the assets totaling $4.8 million. The bid resulted in a cash payment from the FDIC totaling $8.1 million.

 

Satilla Community Bank

 

On May 14, 2010, the Bank purchased substantially all of the assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of Satilla Community Bank (“SCB”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of SCB. SCB operated one branch in St. Marys, Georgia, the southernmost city on the Georgia coast and a northern suburb of Jacksonville, Florida, with approximately $68.8 million in loans and approximately $75.5 million in deposits. The Company’s agreements with the FDIC included a loss-sharing agreement which affords the Bank significant protection from losses associated with loans and OREO. Under the terms of the loss-sharing agreement, the FDIC will absorb 80% of losses and share 80% of loss recoveries during the term of the agreement. The term for loss sharing on residential real estate loans is ten years, while the term for loss sharing on all other loans was five years.

 

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The Company’s bid to acquire SCB included a discount on the book value of the assets totaling $14.4 million. Also included in the bid was a premium of approximately $92,000 on SCB’s deposits. Because SCB’s brokered deposits did not pass to the Bank, the acquisition resulted in significantly more assets being purchased than liabilities assumed. As a result, the Bank made a cash payment to the FDIC totaling $35.7 million to settle the transaction.

 

United Security Bank

 

On November 6, 2009, the Bank purchased substantially all of the assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of United Security Bank (“USB”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of USB. USB operated one branch in Woodstock, Georgia and one branch in Sparta, Georgia, with total loans of approximately $108.4 million and approximately $141.1 million of total deposits. The Company’s agreements with the FDIC included a loss-sharing agreement which affords the Bank significant protection from losses associated with loans and OREO. Under the terms of the loss-sharing agreement the FDIC will absorb 80% of losses and share 80% of loss recoveries on the first $46 million of losses and absorb 95% of losses and share in 95% of loss recoveries on losses exceeding $46 million. The term for loss sharing on residential real estate loans is ten years, while the term for loss sharing on all other loans was five years.

 

The Company’s bid to acquire USB included a discount on the book value of the assets totaling $32.6 million. Also included in the bid was a premium of approximately $228,000 on USB’s deposits. The bid resulted in a cash payment from the FDIC totaling $24.2 million.

 

American United Bank

 

On October 23, 2009, the Bank purchased substantially all of the assets and assumed substantially all of the liabilities of American United Bank (“AUB”) from the FDIC, as Receiver of AUB. AUB operated one branch in Lawrenceville, Georgia, a northeast suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, with approximately $85.7 million in loans and approximately $100.5 million in deposits. The Company’s agreements with the FDIC included a loss-sharing agreement which affords the Bank significant protection from losses associated with loans and OREO. Under the terms of the loss-sharing agreement, the FDIC will absorb 80% of losses and share 80% of loss recoveries on the first $38 million of losses and absorb 95% of losses and share in 95% of loss recoveries on losses exceeding $38 million. The loss-sharing agreement for residential real estate loans was terminated in 2012 with two remaining loans, while the term for loss sharing on all other loans was five years.

 

The Company’s bid to acquire AUB included a discount on the book value of the assets totaling $19.6 million. Also included in the bid was a premium of approximately $262,000 on AUB’s deposits. The bid resulted in a cash payment from the FDIC totaling $17.1 million.

 

Capital Purchase Program

 

On November 21, 2008, the Company, pursuant to the Capital Purchase Program (the “CPP”) established under the Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (“EESA”), in connection with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”), issued and sold to the United States Department of the Treasury (the “Treasury”), for an aggregate cash purchase price of $52 million, (i) 52,000 shares (the “Preferred Shares”) of the Company’s Fixed Rate Cumulative Perpetual Preferred Stock, Series A, having a liquidation preference of $1,000 per share, and (ii) a ten-year warrant (the “Warrant”) to purchase up to 679,443 shares of Common Stock, at an exercise price of $11.48 per share. Proceeds from the issuance of the Preferred Shares and the Warrant were allocated based on the relative market values of each. As a result of the Company’s participation in the CPP, the Company was subject to the rules and regulations promulgated under the EESA. These rules and regulations included certain limitations on compensation for senior executives, dividend payments and payments to senior executives upon termination of employment, as well as certain obligations of the Company to increase its efforts to reduce the number of foreclosures of primary residences.

 

On June 14, 2012, the Preferred Shares were sold by the Treasury through a registered public offering as part of the Treasury’s efforts to wind down its remaining TARP bank investments. While the sale of the Preferred Shares to new investors did not result in any accounting entries and did not change the Company’s capital position, it eliminated the executive compensation and corporate governance restrictions that were applicable to the Company during the period in which the Treasury held its investment in the Preferred Shares. Subsequently, on August 22, 2012, the Company repurchased the Warrant from the Treasury for $2.67 million and in December 2012, the Company repurchased 24,000 of the outstanding Preferred Shares. The Company redeemed the remaining 28,000 outstanding Preferred Shares on March 24, 2014.

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MARKET AREAS AND COMPETITION

 

The banking industry in general, and in the southeastern United States specifically, is highly competitive and dramatic changes continue to occur throughout the industry. Our select market areas in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina have experienced strong population growth over the past 20 to 30 years, but have endured significant economic challenges in recent years. Intense market demands, national and local economic pressures, interest rates near zero and increased customer awareness of product and service differences among financial institutions have forced banks to diversify their services and become much more cost effective. Over the past few years, our Bank has faced strong competition in attracting deposits at profitable levels. Competition for deposits comes from other commercial banks, thrift institutions, mortgage bankers, finance companies, credit unions and issuers of securities such as brokerage firms. Interest rates, convenience of office locations and marketing are all significant factors in our Bank’s competition for deposits.

 

Competition for loans comes from other commercial banks, thrift institutions, savings banks, insurance companies, consumer finance companies, credit unions and other institutional lenders. In order to remain competitive, our Bank has varied interest rates and loan fees to some degree as well as increased the number and complexity of services provided. We have not varied or altered our underwriting standards in any material respect in response to competitor willingness to do so and in some markets have not been able to experience the growth in loans that we would have preferred. Competition is affected by the general availability of lendable funds, general and local economic conditions, current interest rate levels and other factors that are not readily predictable.

 

Competition among providers of financial products and services continues to increase with consumers having the opportunity to select from a growing variety of traditional and nontraditional alternatives. The industry continues to consolidate, which affects competition by eliminating some regional and local institutions, while strengthening the franchise of acquirers. Management expects that competition will become more intense in the future due to changes in state and federal laws and regulations and the entry of additional bank and nonbank competitors. See “Supervision and Regulation” under this Item.

 

EMPLOYEES

 

At December 31, 2015, the Company employed approximately 1,304 full-time-equivalent employees. We consider our relationship with our employees to be good.

 

We have adopted the Ameris Bancorp 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan, as a retirement plan for our employees. This plan provides deferral of compensation by our employees and contributions by Ameris.  We also maintain a comprehensive employee benefits program providing, among other benefits, hospitalization and major medical insurance and life insurance. Management considers these benefits to be competitive with those offered by other financial institutions in our market areas. Our employees are not represented by any collective bargaining group.

 

RELATED PARTY TRANSACTIONS

 

The Company makes loans to our directors and their affiliates and to banking officers. These loans are made on substantially the same terms as those prevailing at the time for comparable transactions and do not involve more than normal credit risk. At December 31, 2015, we had approximately $4.02 billion in total loans outstanding, of which approximately $3.8 million were outstanding to certain directors and their affiliates. Company policy prohibits loans to executive officers.

 

SUPERVISION AND REGULATION

 

General

 

We are extensively regulated under federal and state law.  Generally, these laws and regulations are intended to protect depositors and not shareholders. The following is a summary of certain provisions of certain laws that affect the regulation of bank holding companies and banks. The discussion is qualified in its entirety by reference to applicable laws and regulations. Changes in such laws and regulations may have a material effect on our business and prospects.

 

Federal Bank Holding Company Regulation and Structure

 

As a bank holding company, we are subject to regulation under the Bank Holding Company Act and to the supervision, examination and reporting requirements of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve”). Our Bank has a Georgia state charter and is subject to regulation, supervision and examination by the FDIC and the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance (the “GDBF”).

 

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The Bank Holding Company Act requires every bank holding company to obtain the prior approval of the Federal Reserve before:

 

it may acquire direct or indirect ownership or control of any voting shares of any bank if, after the acquisition, the bank holding company will directly or indirectly own or control more than 5% of the voting shares of the bank;

 

it or any of its subsidiaries, other than a bank, may acquire all or substantially all of the assets of any bank; or

 

it may merge or consolidate with any other bank holding company.

 

The Bank Holding Company Act further provides that the Federal Reserve may not approve any transaction that would result in a monopoly or that would substantially lessen competition in the banking business, unless the public interest in meeting the needs of the communities to be served outweighs the anti-competitive effects. The Federal Reserve is also required to consider the financial and managerial resources and future prospects of the bank holding companies and banks involved and the convenience and needs of the communities to be served. Consideration of financial resources generally focuses on capital adequacy, and consideration of convenience and needs issues focuses, in part, on the performance under the Community Reinvestment Act, both of which are discussed elsewhere in more detail.

 

Subject to various exceptions, the Bank Holding Company Act and the Change in Bank Control Act, together with related regulations, require Federal Reserve approval prior to any person or company acquiring “control” of a bank holding company. Control is conclusively presumed to exist if an individual or company acquires 25% or more of any class of voting securities of a bank holding company. Control is also presumed to exist, although rebuttable, if a person or company acquires 10% or more, but less than 25%, of any class of voting securities and either:

 

the bank holding company has registered securities under Section 12 of the Exchange Act; or

 

no other person owns a greater percentage of that class of voting securities immediately after the transaction.

 

Our Common Stock is registered under Section 12 of the Exchange Act. The regulations provide a procedure for challenging rebuttable presumptions of control.

 

The Bank Holding Company Act generally prohibits a bank holding company from engaging in activities other than banking; managing or controlling banks or other permissible subsidiaries and acquiring or retaining direct or indirect control of any company engaged in any activities other than activities closely related to banking or managing or controlling banks. In determining whether a particular activity is permissible, the Federal Reserve considers whether performing the activity can be expected to produce benefits to the public that outweigh possible adverse effects, such as undue concentration of resources, decreased or unfair competition, conflicts of interest or unsound banking practices. The Federal Reserve has the power to order a bank holding company or its subsidiaries to terminate any activity or control of any subsidiary when the continuation of the activity or control constitutes a serious risk to the financial safety, soundness or stability of any bank subsidiary of that bank holding company.

 

Under the Bank Holding Company Act, a bank holding company may file an election with the Federal Reserve to be treated as a financial holding company and engage in an expanded list of financial activities. The election must be accompanied by a certification that all of the company’s insured depository institution subsidiaries are “well capitalized” and “well managed.” Additionally, the Community Reinvestment Act rating of each subsidiary bank must be satisfactory or better. Effective August 24, 2000, pursuant to a previously-filed election with the Federal Reserve, Ameris became a financial holding company. As such, we may engage in activities that are financial in nature or incidental or complementary to financial activities, including insurance underwriting, securities underwriting and dealing, and making merchant banking investments in commercial and financial companies. If the Bank ceases to be “well capitalized” or “well managed” under applicable regulatory standards, the Federal Reserve may, among other things, place limitations on our ability to conduct these broader financial activities. In addition, if the Bank receives a rating of less than satisfactory under the Community Reinvestment Act, we would be prohibited from engaging in any additional activities other than those permissible for bank holding companies that are not financial holding companies. If, after becoming a financial holding company and undertaking activities not permissible for a bank holding company, the company fails to continue to meet any of the prerequisites for financial holding company status, including those described above, the company must enter into an agreement with the Federal Reserve to comply with all applicable capital and management requirements. If the company does not return to compliance within 180 days, the Federal Reserve may order the company to divest its subsidiary banks or the company may discontinue or divest investments in companies engaged in activities permissible only for a bank holding company that has elected to be treated as a financial holding company.

 

Under Federal Reserve policy, we are expected to act as a source of financial strength for the Bank and to commit resources to support the Bank. This support may be required at times when, without this Federal Reserve policy, we might not be inclined to provide it. In addition, any capital loans made by us to the Bank will be repaid only after its deposits and various other obligations are repaid in full.

 

Our Bank is also subject to numerous state and federal statutes and regulations that affect its business, activities and operations and is supervised and examined by state and federal bank regulatory agencies. The FDIC and the GDBF regularly examine the operations of our Bank and are given the authority to approve or disapprove mergers, consolidations, the establishment of branches and similar corporate actions. These agencies also have the power to prevent the continuance or development of unsafe or unsound banking practices or other violations of law.

 

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Payment of Dividends and Other Restrictions

 

Ameris is a legal entity separate and distinct from its subsidiaries. While there are various legal and regulatory limitations under federal and state law on the extent to which our Bank can pay dividends or otherwise supply funds to Ameris, the principal source of our cash revenues is dividends from our Bank. The prior approval of applicable regulatory authorities is required if the total amount of all dividends declared by the Bank in any calendar year exceeds 50% of the Bank’s net profits for the previous year. The relevant federal and state regulatory agencies also have authority to prohibit a state member bank or bank holding company, which would include Ameris and the Bank, from engaging in what, in the opinion of such regulatory body, constitutes an unsafe or unsound practice in conducting its business. The payment of dividends could, depending upon the financial condition of the subsidiary, be deemed to constitute an unsafe or unsound practice in conducting its business.

 

Under Georgia law, the prior approval of the GDBF is required before any cash dividends may be paid by a state bank if: (i) total classified assets at the most recent examination of such bank exceed 80% of the equity capital (as defined, which includes the reserve for loan losses) of such bank; (ii) the aggregate amount of dividends declared or anticipated to be declared in the calendar year exceeds 50% of the net profits (as defined) for the previous calendar year; or (iii) the ratio of equity capital to adjusted total assets is less than 6%. As of December 31, 2015, there was approximately $22.4 million of retained earnings of our Bank available for payment of cash dividends under applicable regulations without obtaining regulatory approval.

 

In addition, our Bank is subject to limitations under Section 23A of the Federal Reserve Act with respect to extensions of credit to, investments in and certain other transactions with Ameris. Furthermore, loans and extensions of credit are also subject to various collateral requirements.

 

The Federal Reserve has issued a policy statement on the payment of cash dividends by bank holding companies, which expresses the Federal Reserve’s view that a bank holding company should pay cash dividends only to the extent that the holding company’s net income for the past year is sufficient to cover both the cash dividends and a rate of earning retention that is consistent with the holding company’s capital needs, asset quality and overall financial condition. The Federal Reserve also indicated that it would be inappropriate for a holding company experiencing serious financial problems to borrow funds to pay dividends. Furthermore, under the prompt corrective action regulations adopted by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve may prohibit a bank holding company from paying any dividends if one or more of the holding company’s bank subsidiaries are classified as undercapitalized.

 

A bank holding company is required to give the Federal Reserve prior written notice of any purchase or redemption of its outstanding equity securities if the gross consideration for the purchase or redemption, when combined with the net consideration paid for all such purchases or redemptions during the preceding 12 months, is equal to 10% or more of its consolidated net worth. The Federal Reserve may disapprove such a purchase or redemption if it determines that the proposal would constitute an unsafe or unsound practice or would violate any law, regulation, Federal Reserve order or any condition imposed by, or written agreement with, the Federal Reserve.

 

Capital Adequacy

 

We must comply with the Federal Reserve’s established capital adequacy standards, and our Bank is required to comply with the capital adequacy standards established by the FDIC. The Federal Reserve has promulgated two basic measures of capital adequacy for bank holding companies: a risk-based measure and a leverage measure. A bank holding company must satisfy all applicable capital standards to be considered in compliance.

 

The risk-based capital standards are designed to make regulatory capital requirements more sensitive to differences in risk profile among banks and bank holding companies, account for off-balance-sheet exposure and minimize disincentives for holding liquid assets.

 

Assets and off-balance-sheet items are assigned to broad risk categories, each with appropriate weights. The resulting capital ratios represent capital as a percentage of total risk-weighted assets and off-balance-sheet items.

 

The minimum guideline for the ratio of total capital to risk-weighted assets is 8%. At least one-half of total capital must be comprised of Tier 1 Capital, which is common stock, undivided profits, minority interests in the equity accounts of consolidated subsidiaries and noncumulative perpetual preferred stock, less goodwill and certain other intangible assets. The remainder may consist of Tier 2 Capital, which is subordinated debt, other preferred stock and a limited amount of loan loss reserves. Since 2001, our consolidated capital ratios have increased due to the issuance of trust preferred securities. At December 31, 2015, all of our trust preferred securities were included in Tier 1 Capital. At December 31, 2015, our total risk-based capital ratio, our Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio and our common equity Tier 1 capital ratio were 11.45% 10.96% and 9.54%, respectively. Neither Ameris nor the Bank has been advised by any federal banking agency of any additional specific minimum capital ratio requirement applicable to it. On January 29, 2015, we completed a private placement of 5,320,000 shares of Common Stock at a price of $22.50 per share. We received net proceeds from the issuance of approximately $114.5 million (after deducting placement agent commissions and expenses).

 

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In addition, the Federal Reserve has established minimum leverage ratio guidelines for bank holding companies. These guidelines provide for a minimum ratio of Tier 1 Capital to average assets, less goodwill and certain other intangible assets, of 3% for bank holding companies that meet specified criteria. All other bank holding companies generally are required to maintain a minimum leverage ratio of 4%. At December 31, 2015, our ratio was 8.70%, compared with 8.94% at December 31, 2014. The guidelines also provide that bank holding companies experiencing internal growth or making acquisitions will be expected to maintain strong capital positions substantially above the minimum supervisory levels without significant reliance on intangible assets. Furthermore, the Federal Reserve has indicated that it will consider a “tangible Tier 1 Capital leverage ratio” and other indications of capital strength in evaluating proposals for expansion or new activities. The Federal Reserve has not advised Ameris of any additional specific minimum leverage ratio or tangible Tier 1 Capital leverage ratio applicable to it.

 

Failure to meet capital guidelines could subject a bank to a variety of enforcement remedies, including issuance of a capital directive, the termination of deposit insurance by the FDIC, a prohibition on taking brokered deposits and certain other restrictions on its business. As described below, the FDIC can impose substantial additional restrictions upon FDIC-insured depository institutions that fail to meet applicable capital requirements.

 

The Federal Deposit Insurance Act (or “FDI Act”) requires the federal regulatory agencies to take “prompt corrective action” if a depository institution does not meet minimum capital requirements. The FDI Act establishes five capital tiers: “well capitalized,” “adequately capitalized,” “undercapitalized,” “significantly undercapitalized” and “critically undercapitalized.” A depository institution’s capital tier will depend upon how its capital levels compare to various relevant capital measures and certain other factors, as established by regulation.

 

The federal bank regulatory agencies have adopted regulations establishing relevant capital measurers and relevant capital levels applicable to FDIC-insured banks. The relevant capital measures are the Total Capital ratio, Tier 1 Capital ratio, Common Equity Tier 1 Capital ratio and leverage ratio. Under the regulations, an FDIC-insured bank will be:

 

“well capitalized” if it has a Total Capital ratio of 10% or greater, a Tier 1 Capital ratio of 8% or greater, a Common Equity Tier 1 Capital ratio of 6.5% or greater and a leverage ratio of 5% or greater and is not subject to any order or written directive by the appropriate regulatory authority to meet and maintain a specific capital level for any capital measure;

 

“adequately capitalized” if it has a Total Capital ratio of 8% or greater, a Tier 1 Capital ratio of 6% or greater, a Common Equity Tier 1 Capital ratio of 4.5% or greater and a leverage ratio of 4% or greater (3% in certain circumstances) and is not “well capitalized;”

 

“undercapitalized” if it has a Total Capital ratio of less than 8%, a Tier 1 Capital ratio of less than 6%, a Common Equity Tier 1 Capital ratio of less than 4.5% or a leverage ratio of less than 4%;

 

“significantly undercapitalized” if it has a Total Capital ratio of less than 6%, a Tier 1 Capital ratio of less than 4%, a Common Equity Tier 1 Capital ratio of less than 3% or a leverage ratio of less than 3%; and

 

“critically undercapitalized” if its tangible equity is equal to or less than 2% of average quarterly tangible assets.

 

An institution may be downgraded to, or deemed to be in, a capital category that is lower than is indicated by its capital ratios if it is determined to be in an unsafe or unsound condition or if it receives an unsatisfactory examination rating with respect to certain matters. As of December 31, 2015, our Bank had capital levels that qualify as “well capitalized” under such regulations.

 

The FDI Act generally prohibits an FDIC-insured bank from making a capital distribution (including payment of a dividend) or paying any management fee to its holding company if the bank would thereafter be “undercapitalized.” “Undercapitalized” banks are subject to growth limitations and are required to submit a capital restoration plan. The federal regulators may not accept a capital plan without determining, among other things, that the plan is based on realistic assumptions and is likely to succeed in restoring the bank’s capital. In addition, for a capital restoration plan to be acceptable, the bank’s parent holding company must guarantee that the institution will comply with such capital restoration plan. The aggregate liability of the parent holding company is limited to the lesser of: (i) an amount equal to 5% of the bank’s total assets at the time it became “undercapitalized”; and (ii) the amount which is necessary (or would have been necessary) to bring the institution into compliance with all capital standards applicable with respect to such institution as of the time it fails to comply with the plan. If a bank fails to submit an acceptable plan, it is treated as if it is “significantly undercapitalized.”

 

“Significantly undercapitalized” insured banks may be subject to a number of requirements and restrictions, including orders to sell sufficient voting stock to become “adequately capitalized,” requirements to reduce total assets and the cessation of receipt of deposits from correspondent banks. “Critically undercapitalized” institutions are subject to the appointment of a receiver or conservator. A bank that is not “well capitalized” is also subject to certain limitations relating to brokered deposits.

  

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The regulatory capital framework under which we operate has changed, and is expected to continue to change, in significant respects as a result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), which was enacted in July 2010 and includes certain provisions concerning the capital regulations of U.S. banking regulators. These provisions are intended to subject bank holding companies to the same capital requirements as their bank subsidiaries and to eliminate or significantly reduce the use of hybrid capital instruments, especially trust preferred securities, as regulatory capital. Although a significant number of the rules and regulations mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act have been finalized, many of the new requirements called for have yet to be implemented and will likely be subject to implementing regulations over the course of several years. Given the uncertainty associated with the manner in which the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act will be implemented by the various regulatory agencies, the full extent of the impact such requirements will have on financial institutions’ operations is unclear. The changes resulting from the Dodd-Frank Act may impact the profitability of our business activities, require changes to certain of our business practices, impose upon us more stringent capital, liquidity and leverage ratio requirements or otherwise adversely affect our business. These changes may also require us to invest significant management attention and resources to evaluate and make necessary changes in order to comply with new statutory and regulatory requirements.

 

In July 2013, the federal banking agencies approved an interim final rule that adopts a series of previously proposed rules to conform U.S. regulatory capital rules with the international regulatory standards agreed to by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision in the accord referred to as “Basel III” and to implement requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act. The adopted regulations established new higher capital ratio requirements, narrowed the definitions of capital, imposed new operating restrictions on banking organizations with insufficient capital buffers and increased the risk weighting of certain assets. The Company and the Bank were required to comply with the new capital requirements beginning January 1, 2015.

 

The regulatory changes found in the new final rule include the following:

 

·The final rule established a new capital measure called “Common Equity Tier I Capital” consisting of common stock and related surplus, retained earnings, accumulated other comprehensive income and, subject to certain adjustments, minority common equity interests in subsidiaries. Unlike prior rules which excluded unrealized gains and losses on available for sale debt securities from regulatory capital, the final rule generally requires accumulated other comprehensive income to flow through to regulatory capital. Depository institutions and their holding companies are now required to maintain Common Equity Tier I Capital equal to 4.5% of risk-weighted assets. Additionally, the regulations increased the required ratio of Tier I Capital to risk-weighted assets from 4% to 6%. Tier I Capital consists of Common Equity Tier I Capital plus Additional Tier I Capital which includes non-cumulative perpetual preferred stock. Neither cumulative preferred stock (other than certain preferred stock issued to the U.S. Treasury) nor trust preferred securities qualify as Additional Tier I Capital, but they may be included in Tier II Capital along with qualifying subordinated debt. The new regulations also require a minimum Tier I leverage ratio of 4% for all institutions, while the minimum required ratio of total capital to risk-weighted assets remains at 8%.

 

·In addition to increased capital requirements, depository institutions and their holding companies will be required to maintain a capital buffer of at least 2.5% of risk-weighted assets over and above the minimum risk-based capital requirements in order to avoid limitations on the payment of dividends, the repurchase of shares or the payment of discretionary bonuses. The capital conservation buffer requirement is being phased in, beginning January 1, 2016, requiring during 2016 a buffer amount greater than 0.625% in order to avoid these limitations, and increasing the amount each year until, beginning January 1, 2019, the buffer amount must be greater than 2.5% in order to avoid the limitations.

 

·The prompt corrective action regulations, under the final rule, incorporate a Common Equity Tier I Capital requirement and raise the capital requirements for certain capital categories. In order to be adequately capitalized for purposes of the prompt corrective action regulations, a banking organization is required to have at least an 8% Total Risk-Based Capital Ratio, a 6% Tier I Risk-Based Capital Ratio, a 4.5% Common Equity Tier I Risk Based Capital Ratio and a 4% Tier I Leverage Ratio. To be well capitalized, a banking organization is required to have at least a 10% Total Risk-Based Capital Ratio, an 8% Tier I Risk-Based Capital Ratio, a 6.5% Common Equity Tier I Risk-Based Capital Ratio and a 5% Tier I Leverage Ratio.

 

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FDIC Insurance Assessments

 

The FDIC insures the deposit accounts of the Bank up to the maximum amount provided by law. The general insurance limit is $250,000.

 

The FDIC assesses deposit insurance premiums on each insured institution quarterly based on annualized rates for one of four risk categories. Under the rules in effect through March 31, 2011, these rates are applied to the institution’s deposits. Each institution is assigned to one of four risk categories based on its capital, supervisory ratings and other factors. Well capitalized institutions that are financially sound with only a few minor weaknesses are assigned to Risk Category I. Risk Categories II, III and IV present progressively greater risks to the Deposit Insurance Fund (“DIF”). A range of initial base assessment rates applies to each risk category, subject to adjustments based on an institution’s unsecured debt, secured liabilities and brokered deposits, such that the total base assessment rates after adjustments range from 7 to 24 basis points for Risk Category I, 17 to 43 basis points for Risk Category II, 27 to 58 basis points for Risk Category III, and 40 to 77.5 basis points for Risk Category IV.

 

As required by the Dodd-Frank Act, the FDIC adopted rules effective April 1, 2011 under which insurance premium assessments are based on an institution’s total assets minus its tangible equity (defined as Tier 1 capital) instead of its deposits. Under these rules, an institution with total assets of less than $10 billion will be assigned to a risk category as described above, and a range of initial base assessment rates will apply to each category, subject to adjustment downward based on unsecured debt issued by the institution and, except for an institution in Risk Category I, adjustment upward if the institution’s brokered deposits exceed 10% of its domestic deposits, to produce total base assessment rates. Total base assessment rates range from 2.5 to 9 basis points for Risk Category I, 9 to 24 basis points for Risk Category II, 18 to 33 basis points for Risk Category III, and 30 to 45 basis points for Risk Category IV, all subject to further adjustment upward if the institution holds more than a de minimis amount of unsecured debt issued by another FDIC-insured institution. The FDIC may increase or decrease its rates by 2.0 basis points without further rulemaking. In an emergency, the FDIC may also impose a special assessment.

 

The Company’s insurance assessments during 2015, 2014 and 2013 were approximately $3.5 million, $3.0 million and $2.3 million, respectively.

 

Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the FDIC has established 2.0% as the designated reserve ratio (“DRR”), which is the ratio of the DIF to insured deposits. The FDIC has adopted a plan under which it will meet the statutory minimum DRR of 1.35% by September 30, 2020, the deadline imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act. The Dodd-Frank Act requires the FDIC to offset the effect of the increase in the statutory minimum DRR to 1.35% on institutions with assets of less than $10 billion from the former statutory minimum of 1.15%. The FDIC has not yet announced how it will implement this offset or how larger institutions will be affected by it.

 

Acquisitions

 

As an active acquirer, we must comply with numerous laws related to our acquisition activity. Under the Bank Holding Company Act, a bank holding company may not directly or indirectly acquire ownership or control of more than 5% of the voting shares or substantially all of the assets of any bank or merge or consolidate with another bank holding company without the prior approval of the Federal Reserve. Current federal law authorizes interstate acquisitions of banks and bank holding companies without geographic limitation. Furthermore, a bank headquartered in one state is authorized to merge with a bank headquartered in another state, as long as neither of the states has opted out of such interstate merger authority prior to such date, and subject to any state requirement that the target bank shall have been in existence and operating for a minimum period of time, not to exceed five years, and to certain deposit market-share limitations. After a bank has established branches in a state through an interstate merger transaction, the bank may establish and acquire additional branches at any location in the state where a bank headquartered in that state could have established or acquired branches under applicable federal or state law.

 

Community Reinvestment Act

 

The Community Reinvestment Act requires federal bank regulatory agencies to encourage financial institutions to meet the credit needs of low and moderate-income borrowers in their local communities. An institution’s size and business strategy determines the type of examination that it will receive. Large, retail-oriented institutions are examined using a performance-based lending, investment and service test. Small institutions are examined using a streamlined approach. All institutions may opt to be evaluated under a strategic plan formulated with community input and pre-approved by the bank regulatory agency.

 

The Community Reinvestment Act regulations provide for certain disclosure obligations. Each institution must post a notice advising the public of its right to comment to the institution and its regulator on the institution’s Community Reinvestment Act performance and to review the institution’s Community Reinvestment Act public file. Each lending institution must maintain for public inspection a file that includes a listing of branch locations and services, a summary of lending activity, a map of its communities and any written comments from the public on its performance in meeting community credit needs. The Community Reinvestment Act requires public disclosure of a financial institution’s written Community Reinvestment Act evaluations. This promotes enforcement of Community Reinvestment Act requirements by providing the public with the status of a particular institution’s community reinvestment record.

 

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Consumer Protection Laws

 

The Bank is subject to a number of federal and state laws designed to protect borrowers and promote lending to various sectors of the economy and population. These laws include the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Truth in Lending Act, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and state law counterparts.

 

In addition, the Dodd-Frank Act created a new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), which has been given the power to promulgate and enforce federal consumer protection laws. Depository institutions are subject to the CFPB’s rulemaking authority, while existing federal bank regulatory agencies retain examination and enforcement authority for such institutions. The focus of the CFPB is on the following: (i) risks to consumers and compliance with the federal consumer financial laws; (ii) the markets in which firms operate and risks to consumers posed by activities in those markets; (iii) depository institutions that offer a wide variety of consumer financial products and services; (iv) depository institutions with a more specialized focus; and (v) non-depository companies that offer one or more consumer financial products or services.

 

Financial Privacy

 

Federal law currently contains extensive customer privacy protection provisions. Under these provisions, a financial institution must provide to its customers, at the inception of the customer relationship and annually thereafter, the institution’s policies and procedures regarding the handling of customers’ nonpublic personal financial information. These provisions also provide that, except for certain limited exceptions, an institution may not provide such personal information to unaffiliated third parties unless the institution discloses to the customer that such information may be so provided and the customer is given the opportunity to opt out of such disclosure. Federal law makes it a criminal offense, except in limited circumstances, to obtain or attempt to obtain customer information of a financial nature by fraudulent or deceptive means.

 

Fiscal and Monetary Policy

 

Banking is a business which depends on interest rate differentials for success. In general, the difference between the interest paid by a bank on its deposits and its other borrowings, and the interest received by a bank on its loans and securities holdings, constitutes the major portion of a bank’s earnings. Thus, our earnings and growth will be subject to the influence of economic conditions generally, both domestic and foreign, and also to the monetary and fiscal policies of the United States and its agencies, particularly the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve regulates the supply of money through various means, including open market dealings in United States government securities, the discount rate at which banks may borrow from the Federal Reserve and the reserve requirements on deposits. The nature and timing of any changes in such policies and their effect on Ameris cannot be known at this time.

 

Current and future legislation and the policies established by federal and state regulatory authorities will affect our future operations. Banking legislation and regulations may limit our growth and the return to our investors by restricting certain of our activities.

 

In addition, capital requirements could be changed and have the effect of restricting our activities or requiring additional capital to be maintained. We cannot predict with certainty what changes, if any, will be made to existing federal and state legislation and regulations or the effect that such changes may have on our business.

 

Federal Home Loan Bank System

 

Our Company has a correspondent relationship with the FHLB of Atlanta, which is one of 12 regional FHLBs that administer the home financing credit function of savings companies. Each FHLB serves as a reserve or central bank for its members within its assigned region. FHLBs are funded primarily from proceeds derived from the sale of consolidated obligations of the FHLB system and make loans to members (i.e., advances) in accordance with policies and procedures, established by the Board of Directors of the FHLB which are subject to the oversight of the Federal Housing Finance Board. All advances from the FHLB are required to be fully secured by sufficient collateral as determined by the FHLB. In addition, all long-term advances are required to provide funds for residential home financing.

 

The FHLB provides certain services to our Company such as processing checks and other items, buying and selling federal funds, handling money transfers and exchanges, shipping coin and currency, providing security and safekeeping of funds or other valuable items and furnishing limited management information and advice. As compensation for these services, our Company maintains certain balances with the FHLB in interest-bearing accounts.

 

Under federal law, the FHLBs are required to provide funds for the resolution of troubled savings companies and to contribute to low and moderately-priced housing programs through direct loans or interest subsidies on advances targeted for community investment and low and moderate-income housing projects.

 

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Real Estate Lending Evaluations

 

The federal regulators have adopted uniform standards for evaluations of loans secured by real estate or made to finance improvements to real estate. Banks are required to establish and maintain written internal real estate lending policies consistent with safe and sound banking practices and appropriate to the size of the institution and the nature and scope of its operations. The regulations establish loan-to-value ratio limitations on real estate loans. Our Company’s loan policies establish limits on loan-to-value ratios that are equal to or less than those established in such regulations.

 

Commercial Real Estate Concentrations

 

Our lending operations may be subject to enhanced scrutiny by federal banking regulators based on our concentration of commercial real estate loans. The federal banking regulators previously issued guidance reminding financial institutions of the risk posed by commercial real estate (“CRE”) lending concentrations. CRE loans generally include land development, construction loans, and loans secured by multifamily property, and nonfarm, nonresidential real property where the primary source of repayment is derived from rental income associated with the property. The guidance prescribes the following guidelines for its examiners to help identify institutions that are potentially exposed to significant CRE risk and may warrant greater supervisory scrutiny:

 

total reported loans for construction, land development and other land (“C&D”) represent 100% or more of the institution’s total capital; or

 

total CRE loans represent 300% or more of the institution’s total capital, and the outstanding balance of the institution’s CRE loan portfolio has increased by 50% or more.

 

As of December 31, 2015, excluding purchased non-covered and covered assets, our C&D concentration as a percentage of capital totaled 47.5% and our CRE concentration, net of owner-occupied loans, as a percentage of capital totaled 144.0%. Including purchased non-covered and covered loans subject to loss-sharing agreements with the FDIC, the Company’s C&D concentration as a percentage of capital totaled 63.0% and our CRE concentration, net of owner-occupied loans, as a percentage of capital totaled 189.0%.

 

Limitations on Incentive Compensation

 

The Dodd-Frank Act requires the federal banking regulators and other agencies, including the SEC, to issue regulations or guidelines requiring disclosure to the regulators of incentive-based compensation arrangements and to prohibit incentive-based compensation arrangements for directors, officers or employees that encourage inappropriate risks by providing excessive compensation, fees or benefits or that could lead to material financial loss to a financial institution. The federal bank regulatory agencies have issued guidance on incentive compensation policies, which covers all employees who have the ability to materially affect the risk profile of an institution, either individually or as part of a group, that is based upon the key principles that a financial institution’s incentive compensation arrangements should (i) provide incentives that do not encourage risk-taking beyond the institution’s ability to effectively identify and manage risks, (ii) be compatible with effective internal controls and risk management and (iii) be supported by strong corporate governance, including active and effective oversight by the institution’s board of directors and appropriate policies, procedures and monitoring.

 

As part of the regular, risk-focused examination process, the incentive compensation arrangements of banking organizations will be reviewed, and the regulator’s findings will be incorporated into the organization’s supervisory ratings, which can affect the organization’s ability to make acquisitions and take other actions. Enforcement actions may be taken against a banking organization if its incentive compensation arrangements, or related risk-management control or governance processes, pose a risk to the organization’s safety and soundness and the organization is not taking prompt and effective measures to correct any deficiencies.

 

The scope and content of federal bank regulatory agencies’ policies on executive compensation are continuing to develop and are likely to continue evolving in the near future. It cannot be determined at this time whether compliance with such policies will adversely affect the Company’s ability to hire, retain and motivate its key employees.

 

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Evolving Legislation and Regulatory Action

 

The Dodd-Frank Act implements many new changes in the way financial and banking operations are regulated in the United States. Many aspects of the Dodd-Frank Act are subject to further rulemaking and will take effect over several years, with the result that the overall financial impact on the Company and the Bank cannot be anticipated at this time.

 

In addition, from time to time, various other legislative and regulatory initiatives are introduced in Congress and state legislatures, as well as by regulatory agencies, that may impact the Company or the Bank. Such initiatives may include proposals to expand or contract the powers of bank holding companies and depository institutions or proposals to substantially change the financial institution regulatory system. Such legislation could change banking statutes and the operating environment of Ameris in substantial and unpredictable ways. If enacted, such legislation could increase or decrease the cost of doing business, limit or expand permissible activities or affect the competitive balance among banks, savings associations, credit unions and other financial institutions. The Company cannot predict whether any such legislation will be enacted, and, if enacted, the effect that it, or any implementing regulations, would have on the financial condition or results of operations of the Company. A change in statutes, regulations or regulatory policies applicable to the Company or the Bank could have a material effect on the business of the Company.

 

ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS

 

An investment in our Common Stock is subject to risks inherent in our business. The material risks and uncertainties that management believes affect Ameris are described below. Before making an investment decision, you should carefully consider the risks and uncertainties described below, together with all of the other information included or incorporated by reference in this Annual Report. The risks and uncertainties described below are not the only ones facing the Company. Additional risks and uncertainties that management is not aware of or focused on or that management currently deems immaterial may also impair the Company’s business operations. This Annual Report is qualified in its entirety by these risk factors.

 

If any of the following risks or uncertainties actually occurs, the Company’s financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. If this were to happen, the value of the Common Stock could decline significantly, and you could lose all or part of your investment.

 

RISKS RELATED TO OUR COMPANY AND INDUSTRY

 

Difficult market conditions have adversely affected the industry in which we operate.

 

The capital and credit markets have been experiencing volatility and disruption for over seven years. Declines in the housing market over this period, with falling home prices and increasing foreclosures, unemployment and under-employment, have negatively impacted the credit performance of mortgage loans and resulted in significant write-downs of asset values by financial institutions, including government-sponsored entities, as well as major commercial and investment banks. As a result of the broad-based economic decline and the troubled economic conditions, financial institutions have pursued defensive strategies, including seeking additional capital. In some cases, financial institutions that did not pursue defensive strategies or did not succeed in those strategies have failed. Reflecting concern about the stability of the financial markets generally and the strength of counterparties, many lenders and institutional investors have reduced or ceased providing funding to borrowers, including to other financial institutions. Additionally, the market disruptions have increased the level of commercial and consumer delinquencies, lack of consumer confidence, increased market volatility and widespread reduction of business activity generally. Although the difficult conditions in the financial markets may ease in the future, we are managing the Company with numerous defensive strategies. A worsening of the current conditions would exacerbate the adverse effects of these difficult market conditions on us and others in the financial institutions industry. In particular, we may face the following risks in connection with these events:

 

Unreliable market conditions with significantly reduced real estate activity may adversely affect our ability to determine the fair value of the assets we hold. If we determine that a significant portion of our assets have values that are significantly below their recorded carrying value, we could recognize a material charge to earnings in the quarter during which such determination was made, our capital ratios would be affected and this may result in increased regulatory scrutiny.

 

We may expect to face increased regulation of our industry. Compliance with such regulation may increase our costs and limit our ability to pursue business opportunities.

 

Market developments and the resulting economic pressure on consumers may affect consumer confidence levels and may cause increases in delinquencies and default rates, which, among other effects, could affect our charge-offs and provision for loan losses.

 

Competition in the industry could intensify as a result of the increasing consolidation of financial services companies in connection with current market conditions.

 

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Legislation and regulatory proposals enacted in response to market and economic conditions may materially adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

The banking industry is heavily regulated. We are subject to examinations, supervision and comprehensive regulation by various federal and state agencies. Our compliance with these regulations is costly and restricts certain of our activities. Banking regulations are primarily intended to protect the federal deposit insurance fund and depositors, not shareholders. The burden imposed by federal and state regulations puts banks at a competitive disadvantage compared to less regulated competitors such as finance companies, mortgage banking companies and leasing companies. Changes in the laws, regulations and regulatory practices affecting the banking industry may increase our costs of doing business or otherwise adversely affect us and create competitive advantages for others. Federal economic and monetary policies may also affect our ability to attract deposits and other funding sources, make loans and investments and achieve satisfactory interest spreads.

 

The Dodd-Frank Act represents a significant overhaul of many aspects of the regulation of the financial-services industry, including new or revised regulation of such things as systemic risk, capital adequacy, deposit insurance assessments and consumer financial protection. In addition, the federal banking regulators have issued joint guidance on incentive compensation and the Treasury and the federal banking regulators have issued statements calling for higher capital and liquidity requirements for banking organizations. Complying with these and other new legislative or regulatory requirements, and any programs established thereunder, could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations, our financial condition and our ability to fill positions with the most qualified candidates available.

 

Our revenues are highly correlated to market interest rates.

 

Our assets and liabilities are primarily monetary in nature, and as a result, we are subject to significant risks tied to changes in interest rates. Our ability to operate profitably is largely dependent upon net interest income. In 2015, net interest income made up 67.2% of our recurring revenue. Unexpected movement in interest rates, that may or may not change the slope of the current yield curve, could cause our net interest margins to decrease, subsequently decreasing net interest income. In addition, such changes could materially adversely affect the valuation of our assets and liabilities.

 

At present our one-year interest rate sensitivity position is mildly liability sensitive, such that a gradual increase in interest rates during the next twelve months should have a slightly negative impact on net interest income during that period. However, as with most financial institutions, our results of operations are affected by changes in interest rates and our ability to manage this risk. The difference between interest rates charged on interest-earning assets and interest rates paid on interest-bearing liabilities may be affected by changes in market interest rates, changes in relationships between interest rate indices, and changes in the relationships between long-term and short-term market interest rates. In addition, the mix of assets and liabilities could change as varying levels of market interest rates might present our customer base with more attractive options.

 

Certain changes in interest rates, inflation, deflation or the financial markets could affect demand for our products and our ability to deliver products efficiently.

 

Loan originations, and potentially loan revenues, could be materially adversely impacted by sharply rising interest rates. Conversely, sharply falling rates could increase prepayments within our securities portfolio lowering interest earnings from those investments. An unanticipated increase in inflation could cause our operating costs related to salaries and benefits, technology and supplies to increase at a faster pace than revenues.

 

The fair market value of our securities portfolio and the investment income from these securities also fluctuate depending on general economic and market conditions. In addition, actual net investment income and/or cash flows from investments that carry prepayment risk, such as mortgage-backed and other asset-backed securities, may differ from those anticipated at the time of investment as a result of interest rate fluctuations.

 

Our concentration of real estate loans subjects the Company to risks that could materially adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

 

The majority of our loan portfolio is secured by real estate. As the economy has deteriorated and depressed real estate values, the collateral value of the portfolio and the revenue stream from those loans has come under stress and has required additional provision to the allowance for loan losses. Our ability to dispose of foreclosed real estate and resolve credit quality issues is dependent on real estate activity and real estate prices, both of which have been unpredictable for several years.

 

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Greater loan losses than expected may materially adversely affect our earnings.

 

We, as lenders, are exposed to the risk that our customers will be unable to repay their loans in accordance with their terms and that any collateral securing the payment of their loans may not be sufficient to assure repayment. Credit losses are inherent in the business of making loans and could have a material adverse effect on our operating results. Our credit risk with respect to our real estate and construction loan portfolio will relate principally to the creditworthiness of business entities and the value of the real estate serving as security for the repayment of loans. Our credit risk with respect to our commercial and consumer loan portfolio will relate principally to the general creditworthiness of businesses and individuals within our local markets.

 

We make various assumptions and judgments about the collectability of our loan portfolio and provide an allowance for estimated loan losses based on a number of factors. We believe that our current allowance for loan losses is adequate. However, if our assumptions or judgments prove to be incorrect, the allowance for loan losses may not be sufficient to cover actual loan losses. We may have to increase our allowance in the future in response to the request of one of our primary banking regulators, to adjust for changing conditions and assumptions, or as a result of any deterioration in the quality of our loan portfolio. The actual amount of future provisions for loan losses cannot be determined at this time and may vary from the amounts of past provisions.

 

Our business is highly correlated to local economic conditions in a geographically concentrated part of the United States.

 

Unlike larger organizations that are more geographically diversified, our banking offices are primarily concentrated in select markets in Georgia, Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. As a result of this geographic concentration, our financial results depend largely upon economic conditions in these market areas. Deterioration in economic conditions in the markets we serve could result in one or more of the following:

 

an increase in loan delinquencies;

 

an increase in problem assets and foreclosures;

 

a decrease in the demand for our products and services; and

 

a decrease in the value of collateral for loans, especially real estate, in turn reducing customers’ borrowing power, the value of assets associated with problem loans and collateral coverage.

 

We face additional risks due to our increased mortgage banking activities that could negatively impact net income and profitability.

 

We sell substantially all of the mortgage loans that we originate. The sale of these loans generates noninterest income and can be a source of liquidity for the Bank. Disruption in the secondary market for residential mortgage loans as well as declines in real estate values could result in one or more of the following:

 

our inability to sell mortgage loans on the secondary market, which could negatively impact our liquidity position;

 

declines in real estate values could decrease the potential of mortgage originations, which could negatively impact our earnings;

 

if it is determined that loans were made in breach of our representations and warranties to the secondary market, we could incur losses associated with the loans;

 

increased compliance requirements could result in higher compliance costs, higher foreclosure proceedings or lower loan origination volume, all which could negatively impact future earnings; and

 

a rise in interest rates could cause a decline in mortgage originations, which could negatively impact our earnings.

 

Our growth and financial performance may be negatively impacted if we are unable to successfully execute our growth plans.

 

Economic conditions and other factors, such as our ability to identify appropriate markets for expansion, our ability to recruit and retain qualified personnel, our ability to fund earning asset growth at a reasonable and profitable level, sufficient capital to support our growth initiatives, competitive factors and banking laws, will impact our success.

 

We may seek to supplement our internal growth through acquisitions. We cannot predict with certainty the number, size or timing of acquisitions, or whether any such acquisitions will occur at all. Our acquisition efforts have traditionally focused on targeted banking entities in markets in which we currently operate and markets in which we believe we can compete effectively. However, as consolidation of the financial services industry continues, the competition for suitable acquisition candidates may increase. We may compete with other financial services companies for acquisition opportunities, and many of these competitors have greater financial resources than we do and may be able to pay more for an acquisition than we are able or willing to pay. We also may need additional debt or equity financing in the future to fund acquisitions. We may not be able to obtain additional financing or, if available, it may not be in amounts and on terms acceptable to us. If we are unable to locate suitable acquisition candidates willing to sell on terms acceptable to us, or we are otherwise unable to obtain additional debt or equity financing necessary for us to continue making acquisitions, we would be required to find other methods to grow our business and we may not grow at the same rate we have in the past, or at all.

 

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Generally, we must receive federal regulatory approval before we can acquire a bank or bank holding company. In determining whether to approve a proposed bank acquisition, federal bank regulators will consider, among other factors, the effect of the acquisition on the competition, financial condition and future prospects. The regulators also review current and projected capital ratios and levels, the competence, experience and integrity of management and its record of compliance with laws and regulations, the convenience and needs of the communities to be served (including the acquiring institution’s record of compliance under the Community Reinvestment Act) and the effectiveness of the acquiring institution in combating money laundering activities. We cannot be certain when or if, or on what terms and conditions, any required regulatory approvals will be granted. We may also be required to sell banks or branches as a condition to receiving regulatory approval, which condition may not be acceptable to us or, if acceptable to us, may reduce the benefit of any acquisition.

 

In the past, we have utilized de novo branching in new and existing markets as a way to supplement our growth. De novo branching and any acquisition carry with it numerous risks, including the following:

 

the inability to obtain all required regulatory approvals;

 

significant costs and anticipated operating losses associated with establishing a de novo branch or a new bank;

 

the inability to secure the services of qualified senior management;

 

the local market may not accept the services of a new bank owned and managed by a bank holding company headquartered outside of the market area of the new bank;

 

economic downturns in the new market;

 

the inability to obtain attractive locations within a new market at a reasonable cost; and

 

the additional strain on management resources and internal systems and controls.

 

We have experienced to some extent many of these risks with our de novo branching to date.

 

We rely on dividends from the Bank for most of our revenue.

 

Ameris is a separate and distinct legal entity from its subsidiaries. It receives substantially all of its revenue from dividends from the Bank. These dividends are the principal source of funds to pay dividends on the Common Stock and interest and principal on the Company’s debt. Various federal and state laws and regulations limit the amount of dividends that the Bank may pay to the Company. Also, the Company’s right to participate in a distribution of assets upon a subsidiary’s liquidation or reorganization is subject to the prior claims of the subsidiary’s creditors. In the event the Bank is unable to pay dividends to the Company, the Company may not be able to service debt, pay obligations or pay dividends on the Common Stock and its business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially adversely affected. Consequently, cash-based activities, including further investments in the Bank or in support of the Bank, could require borrowings or additional issuances of common or preferred stock.

 

We are subject to regulation by various federal and state entities.

 

We are subject to the regulations of the SEC, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC and the GDBF. New regulations issued by these agencies may adversely affect our ability to carry on our business activities. We are subject to various federal and state laws and certain changes in these laws and regulations may adversely affect our operations. Noncompliance with certain of these regulations may impact our business plans, including our ability to branch, offer certain products or execute existing or planned business strategies.

 

We are also subject to the accounting rules and regulations of the SEC and the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Changes in accounting rules could materially adversely affect the reported financial statements or our results of operations and may also require extraordinary efforts or additional costs to implement. Any of these laws or regulations may be modified or changed from time to time, and we cannot be assured that such modifications or changes will not adversely affect us.

 

We are subject to industry competition which may have an impact upon our success.

 

Our profitability depends on our ability to compete successfully. We operate in a highly competitive financial services environment. Certain competitors are larger and may have more resources than we do. We face competition in our regional market areas from other commercial banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, internet banks, finance companies, mutual funds, insurance companies, brokerage and investment banking firms, and other financial intermediaries that offer similar services. Some of our nonbank competitors are not subject to the same extensive regulations that govern us or our bank subsidiary and may have greater flexibility in competing for business.

 

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Another competitive factor is that the financial services market, including banking services, is undergoing rapid changes with frequent introductions of new technology-driven products and services. Our future success may depend, in part, on our ability to use technology competitively to provide products and services that provide convenience to customers and create additional efficiencies in our operations.

 

Changes in the policies of monetary authorities and other government action could materially adversely affect our profitability.

 

The results of our operations are affected by credit policies of monetary authorities, particularly the Federal Reserve. The instruments of monetary policy employed by the Federal Reserve include open market operations in U.S. government securities, changes in the discount rate or the federal funds rate on bank borrowings and changes in reserve requirements against bank deposits. In view of uncertain conditions in the national economy and in the money markets, we cannot predict with certainty possible future changes in interest rates, deposit levels, loan demand or our business and earnings.

 

We may need to rely on the financial markets to provide needed capital.

 

Our Common Stock is listed and traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market (“NASDAQ”). Although we anticipate that our capital resources will be adequate for the foreseeable future to meet our capital requirements, at times we may depend on the liquidity of the NASDAQ market to raise equity capital. If the market should fail to operate, or if conditions in the capital markets are adverse, we may be constrained in raising capital. Downgrades in the opinions of the analysts that follow our Company may cause our stock price to fall and significantly limit our ability to access the markets for additional capital. Should these risks materialize, our ability to further expand our operations through internal growth or acquisition may be limited.

 

We may invest or spend the proceeds in stock offerings in ways with which you may not agree and in ways that may not earn a profit.

 

We may choose to use the proceeds of future stock offerings for general corporate purposes, including for possible acquisition opportunities that may become available. It is not known whether suitable acquisition opportunities may become available or whether we will be able to successfully complete any such acquisitions. We may use the proceeds of an offering only to focus on sustaining our organic, or internal, growth or for other purposes. In addition, we may use all or a portion of the proceeds of an offering to support our capital. You may not agree with the ways we decide to use the proceeds of any stock offerings, and our use of the proceeds may not yield any profits.

 

We face risks related to our operational, technological and organizational infrastructure.

 

Our ability to grow and compete is dependent on our ability to build or acquire the necessary operational and technological infrastructure and to manage the cost of that infrastructure while we expand. Similar to other large corporations, in our case, operational risk can manifest itself in many ways, such as errors related to failed or inadequate processes, faulty or disabled computer systems, fraud by employees or persons outside of our Company and exposure to external events. We are dependent on our operational infrastructure to help manage these risks. In addition, we are heavily dependent on the strength and capability of our technology systems which we use both to interface with our customers and to manage our internal financial and other systems. Our ability to develop and deliver new products that meet the needs of our existing customers and attract new customers depends in part on the functionality of our technology systems. Additionally, our ability to run our business in compliance with applicable laws and regulations is dependent on these infrastructures.

 

We continuously monitor our operational and technological capabilities and make modifications and improvements when we believe it will be cost effective to do so. In some instances, we may build and maintain these capabilities ourselves. We also outsource some of these functions to third parties. These third parties may experience errors or disruptions that could adversely impact us and over which we may have limited control. We also face risk from the integration of new infrastructure platforms and/or new third party providers of such platforms into our existing businesses.

 

A security breach, cyber-attack or interruption of our technology systems may impact our financial results and customer retention.

 

We rely on data processing systems on a variety of computing platforms and networks. While we believe we have implemented appropriate measures to mitigate potential risks to our operations and technology functions, we cannot be certain that a security breach, cyber-attack or interruption will not occur. Such an interruption or security breach could disrupt our operations or result in the disclosure of sensitive, personal customer information. This could have a negative impact on our financial results through damage to our reputation, costs to remediate the situation, potential civil litigation, additional regulatory scrutiny, loss of customers and potential financial liability.

 

 21 

 

 

Financial services companies depend on the accuracy and completeness of information about customers and counterparties.

 

In deciding whether to extend credit or enter into other transactions, the Company may rely on information furnished by or on behalf of customers and counterparties, including financial statements, credit reports and other financial information. The Company may also rely on representations of those customers, counterparties or other third parties, such as independent auditors, as to the accuracy and completeness of that information. Reliance on inaccurate or misleading financial statements, credit reports or other financial information could have a material adverse impact on the Company’s business and, in turn, the Company’s financial condition and results of operations.

 

Reputational risk and social factors may impact our results.

 

Our ability to originate and maintain accounts is highly dependent upon customer and other external perceptions of our business practices and our financial health. Adverse perceptions regarding our business practices or our financial health could damage our reputation in both the customer and funding markets, leading to difficulties in generating and maintaining accounts as well as in financing them. Adverse developments with respect to the consumer or other external perceptions regarding the practices of our competitors, or our industry as a whole, may also adversely impact our reputation. In addition, adverse reputational impacts on third parties with whom we have important relationships may also adversely impact our reputation. Adverse impacts on our reputation, or the reputation of our industry, may also result in greater regulatory or legislative scrutiny, which may lead to laws, regulations or regulatory actions that may change or constrain the manner in which we engage with our customers and the products we offer. Adverse reputational impacts or events may also increase our litigation risk. We carefully monitor internal and external developments for areas of potential reputational risk and have established governance structures to assist in evaluating such risks in our business practices and decisions.

 

We may not be able to attract and retain skilled people.

 

The Company’s success depends, in large part, on its ability to attract and retain key people. Competition for the best people in most activities engaged in by the Company can be intense and the Company may not be able to hire people or to retain them. The unexpected loss of services of one or more of the Company’s key personnel could have a material adverse impact on the Company’s business because of their skills, knowledge of the Company’s market, years of industry experience and the difficulty of promptly finding qualified replacement personnel.

 

We engage in acquisitions of other businesses from time to time. These acquisitions may not produce revenue or earnings enhancements or cost savings at levels or within timeframes originally anticipated and may result in unforeseen integration difficulties.

 

When appropriate opportunities arise, we will engage in acquisitions of other businesses. Difficulty in integrating an acquired business or company may cause us not to realize expected revenue increases, cost savings, increases in geographic or product presence or other anticipated benefits from any acquisition. The integration could result in higher than expected deposit attrition (run-off), loss of key employees, disruption of our business or the business of the acquired company, or otherwise adversely affect our ability to maintain relationships with customers and employees or achieve the anticipated benefits of the acquisition. We will likely need to make additional investments in equipment and personnel to manage higher asset levels and loan balances as a result of any significant acquisition, which may materially adversely impact our earnings. Also, the negative effect of any divestitures required by regulatory authorities in acquisitions or business combinations may be greater than expected.

 

Depending on the condition of any institution that we may acquire, any acquisition may, at least in the near term, materially adversely affect our capital and earnings and, if not successfully integrated following the acquisition, may continue to have such effects.

 

Changes in national and local economic conditions could lead to higher loan charge-offs in connection with past FDIC-assisted transactions, all of which may not be supported by loss-sharing agreements with the FDIC.

 

Although loan portfolios acquired in past FDIC-assisted transactions have initially been accounted for at fair value, we do not yet know whether many of the loans we acquired will become impaired, and impairment may result in additional charge-offs to the portfolio. The fluctuations in national, regional and local economic conditions, including those related to local residential, commercial real estate and construction markets, may increase the level of charge-offs that we make to our loan portfolio, and, consequently, reduce our net income, and may also increase the level of charge-offs on the loan portfolios that we have acquired such acquisitions and correspondingly reduce our net income. These fluctuations are not predictable, cannot be controlled and may have a material adverse impact on our operations and financial condition even if other favorable events occur.

 

 22 

 

 

Although we have entered into loss-sharing agreements with the FDIC which provide that a significant portion of losses related to specified loan portfolios that we have acquired in connection with the FDIC-assisted transactions will be borne by the FDIC, we are not protected for all losses resulting from charge-offs with respect to those specified loan portfolios. Additionally, the loss-sharing agreements have limited terms, some of which have already expired; therefore, any charge-off of related losses that we experience after the term of the loss-sharing agreements will not be reimbursable by the FDIC and will negatively impact our net income. The loss-sharing agreements also impose standard requirements on us which must be satisfied in order to retain loss share protections.

 

RISKS RELATED TO OUR COMMON STOCK

 

The price of our Common Stock is volatile and may decline.

 

The trading price of our Common Stock may fluctuate widely as a result of a number of factors, many of which are outside our control. In addition, the stock market is subject to fluctuations in the share prices and trading volumes that affect the market prices of the shares of many companies. These broad market fluctuations have adversely affected and may continue to adversely affect the market price of our Common Stock. Among the factors that could affect our stock price are:

 

actual or anticipated quarterly fluctuations in our operating results and financial condition;

 

changes in revenue or earnings estimates or publication of research reports and recommendations by financial analysts or actions taken by rating agencies with respect to our securities or those of other financial institutions;

 

failure to meet analysts’ revenue or earnings estimates;

 

speculation in the press or investment community;

 

strategic actions by us or our competitors, such as acquisitions or restructurings;

 

actions by institutional shareholders;

 

fluctuations in the stock price and operating results of our competitors;

 

general market conditions and, in particular, developments related to market conditions for the financial services industry;

 

proposed or adopted regulatory changes or developments, including changes in accounting policies;

 

anticipated or pending investigations, proceedings or litigation that involve or affect us; or

 

domestic and international economic factors unrelated to our performance.

 

A significant decline in our stock price could result in substantial losses for individual shareholders and could lead to costly and disruptive securities litigation.

 

Securities issued by us, including our Common Stock, are not FDIC insured.

 

Securities issued by us, including our Common Stock, are not savings or deposit accounts or other obligations of any bank and are not insured by the FDIC, the Deposit Insurance Fund or any other governmental agency or instrumentality, or any private insurer, and are subject to investment risk, including the possible loss of principal.

 

We may issue debt and equity securities or securities convertible into equity securities, any of which may be senior to our Common Stock as to distributions and in liquidation, which could negatively affect the value of our Common Stock.

 

In the future, we may attempt to increase our capital resources by entering into debt or debt-like financing that is unsecured or secured by up to all of our assets, or by issuing additional debt or equity securities, which could include issuances of secured or unsecured commercial paper, medium-term notes, senior notes, subordinated notes, preferred stock or securities convertible into or exchangeable for equity securities. In the event of our liquidation, our lenders and holders of our debt and preferred securities would receive a distribution of our available assets before distributions to the holders of our Common Stock. Because our decision to incur debt and issue securities in our future offerings will depend on market conditions and other factors beyond our control, we cannot predict or estimate with certainty the amount, timing or nature of our future offerings and debt financings. Further, market conditions could require us to accept less favorable terms for the issuance of our securities in the future.

 

You may not receive dividends on the Common Stock.

 

Holders of our Common Stock are only entitled to receive such dividends as our Board of Directors may declare out of funds legally available for such payments. In 2010, in response to anticipated increases in corporate risks, our Board suspended the payment of dividends on our Common Stock. In 2014, our Board reinstated the payment of dividends on our Common Stock; however, the payment of dividends could be suspended again at any time.

 

 23 

 

 

Sales of a significant number of shares of our Common Stock in the public markets, or the perception of such sales, could depress the market price of our Common Stock.

 

Sales of a substantial number of shares of our Common Stock in the public markets and the availability of those shares for sale could adversely affect the market price of our Common Stock. In addition, future issuances of equity securities, including pursuant to outstanding options, could dilute the interests of our existing shareholders and could cause the market price of our Common Stock to decline. We may issue such additional equity or convertible securities to raise additional capital. Depending on the amount offered and the levels at which we offer the stock, issuances of common or preferred stock could be substantially dilutive to shareholders of our Common Stock. Moreover, to the extent that we issue restricted stock, phantom shares, stock appreciation rights, options or warrants to purchase our Common Stock in the future and those stock appreciation rights, options or warrants are exercised or as shares of the restricted stock vest, our shareholders may experience further dilution. Holders of our shares of Common Stock have no preemptive rights that entitle holders to purchase their pro rata share of any offering of shares of any class or series and, therefore, such sales or offerings could result in increased dilution to our shareholders. We cannot predict with certainty the effect that future sales of our Common Stock would have on the market price of our Common Stock.

 

ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

 

None.

 

ITEM 2. PROPERTIES

 

The Company’s corporate headquarters is located at 310 First St. SE, Moultrie, Georgia 31768. The Company occupies approximately 6,300 square feet at this location plus an additional 37,248 square feet used for support services for banking operations, including credit, sales and operational support, as well as audit and loan review services. The Company also leases approximately 40,072 square feet in Jacksonville, Florida used for additional corporate support services. In addition to its corporate headquarters, Ameris operates 101 office or branch locations, with eight of those locations announced to be consolidated within the coming months. Of the 101 branch locations, 81 are owned and 20 are subject to either building or ground leases. Ameris also operates nine mortgage production offices, all of which are subject to building leases. At December 31, 2015, there were no significant encumbrances on the offices, equipment or other operational facilities owned by Ameris and the Bank.

 

ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

 

From time to time, as a normal incident of the nature and kind of business in which the Company is engaged, various claims or charges are asserted against the Company or the Bank. In the ordinary course of business, the Company and the Bank are also subject to regulatory examinations, information gathering requests, inquiries and investigations. Other than ordinary routine litigation incidental to the Company’s business, management believes based on its current knowledge and after consultation with legal counsel that there are no pending or threatened legal proceedings that will, individually or in the aggregate, have a material adverse effect on the consolidated results of operations or financial condition of the Company.

 

ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

 

Not applicable.

 

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PART II

 

ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

 

Market Price of Common Stock

 

The Common Stock is listed on NASDAQ under the symbol “ABCB”. The following table sets forth: (i) the high and low sales prices for the Common Stock as quoted on NASDAQ during 2015 and 2014; and (ii) the amount of quarterly dividends declared on the Common Stock during the periods indicated. The high and low sales prices reflect inter-dealer prices, without retail mark-up, mark-down or commission, and may not necessarily represent actual transactions.

 

Quarter Ended 2015  High   Low   Dividend 
             
March 31  $26.55   $22.75    0.05 
June 30   26.87    24.73    0.05 
September 30   28.75    24.97    0.05 
December 31   34.90    27.65    0.05 

 

Quarter Ended 2014  High   Low   Dividend 
             
March 31  $24.00   $19.86    - 
June 30   23.90    19.73    0.05 
September 30   24.04    21.00    0.05 
December 31   26.48    21.95    0.05 

 

Dividends

 

The amount of and nature of any dividends declared on our Common Stock in the future will be determined by our Board of Directors in its sole discretion. The Board reinstated a quarterly cash dividend of $0.05 per share per quarter in June 2014. The Company is required to comply with the restrictions on the payment of dividends in respect of the Common Stock discussed in the section of Part I, Item 1 of this Annual Report captioned “Payment of Dividends and Other Restrictions.”

 

Holders of Common Stock

 

As of February 18, 2016, there were approximately 2,132 holders of record of the Common Stock. The Company believes a portion of Common Stock outstanding is held either in nominee name or street name brokerage accounts; therefore, the Company is unable to determine the number of beneficial owners of the Common Stock.

 

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Performance Graph

 

Set forth below is a line graph comparing the change in the cumulative total shareholder return on the Common Stock against the cumulative return of the NASDAQ Stock Market (U.S. Companies) index and the index of NASDAQ Bank Stocks for the five-year period commencing December 31, 2010, and ending December 31, 2015. This line graph assumes an investment of $100 on December 31, 2010, and reinvestment of dividends and other distributions to shareholders.

 

Pursuant to the regulations of the SEC, this performance graph is not “soliciting material,” is not deemed filed with the SEC and is not to be incorporated by reference in any filing of the Company under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act.

 

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ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

 

The following table presents selected consolidated financial information for Ameris. The data set forth below is derived from the audited consolidated financial statements of Ameris. Acquisitions, including the FDIC-assisted transactions completed between 2009 and 2012, the acquisition of Prosperity in 2013, the acquisition of Coastal in 2014, the branch acquisition in 2015 and the acquisition of Merchants in 2015, significantly affected the comparability of selected financial data. Specifically, since the acquisitions were accounted for using the acquisition method of accounting, the assets of the acquired institutions were recorded at their fair values, the excess purchase price over the net fair value of the assets was recorded as goodwill and the results of operations for the business have been included in the Company’s results since the respective dates these acquisitions were completed. Accordingly, the level of our assets and liabilities and our results of operations for these acquisitions have significantly affected the Company’s financial position and results of operations. Discussion of these acquisitions can be found in the “Corporate Restructuring and Business Combinations” section of Part I, Item 1. of this Annual Report and in Note 3, “Business Combinations,” and Note 4, “Assets Acquired in FDIC-Assisted Acquisitions,” in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements. The selected financial data should be read in conjunction with, and is qualified in its entirety by, the Consolidated Financial Statements and the Notes thereto and Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations included elsewhere herein.

 

   Year Ended December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands, Except Per Share Data) 
Selected Balance Sheet Data:                         
Total assets  $5,588,940   $4,037,077   $3,667,649   $3,019,052   $2,994,307 
Loans, net of unearned income   2,406,877    1,889,881    1,618,454    1,450,635    1,332,086 
Purchased, non-covered loans   771,554    674,239    448,753    -    - 
Purchased loan pools   592,963    -    -    -    - 
Covered loans   137,529    271,279    390,237    507,712    571,489 
Investment securities available for sale   783,185    541,805    486,235    346,909    339,967 
FDIC loss-share receivable, net of clawback   6,301    31,351    65,441    159,724    242,394 
Total deposits   4,879,290    3,431,149    2,999,231    2,624,663    2,591,566 
Stockholders’ equity   514,759    366,028    316,699    279,017    293,770 
                          
Selected Average Balances:                         
Total assets  $4,804,245   $3,731,281   $2,848,529   $2,971,960   $2,965,799 
Loans, net of unearned income   2,161,726    1,753,013    1,478,816    1,393,012    1,348,557 
Purchased, non-covered loans   712,022    557,708    11,065    -    - 
Purchased loan pools   201,689    -    -    -    - 
Covered loans   206,774    339,417    440,923    553,657    570,719 
Investment securities available for sale   731,165    508,383    332,413    369,734    338,736 
Total deposits   4,126,885    3,200,622    2,487,901    2,150,729    2,247,163 
Stockholders’ equity   492,242    316,400    277,173    293,400    282,523 
                          
Selected Income Statement Data:                         
Interest income  $190,393   $164,566   $126,322   $129,479   $141,071 
Interest expense   14,856    14,680    10,137    15,074    27,547 
Net interest income   175,537    149,886    116,185    114,405    113,524 
                          
Provision for loan losses   5,264    5,648    11,486    31,089    32,729 
Other income   85,586    62,836    46,549    57,874    52,807 
Other expenses   199,115    150,869    121,945    119,470    101,953 
Income before income taxes   56,744    56,205    29,303    21,720    31,649 
Income tax expense   15,897    17,482    9,285    7,285    10,556 
Net income  $40,847   $38,723   $20,018   $14,435   $21,093 
                          
Preferred stock dividends   -    286    1,738    3,577    3,241 
Net income available to common shareholders  $40,847   $38,437   $18,280   $10,858   $17,852 

 

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   Year Ended December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands, Except Per Share Data) 
                     
Per Share Data:                         
Net income – basic  $1.29   $1.48   $0.76   $0.46   $0.76 
Net income – diluted   1.27    1.46    0.75    0.46    0.76 
Common book value   15.98    13.67    11.50    10.56    10.23 
Common dividends – cash   0.20    0.15    -    -    - 
Common dividends – stock   -    -    -    -    - 
                          
Profitability Ratios:                         
Net income to average total assets   0.85%   1.08%   0.70%   0.49%   0.60%
Net income to average common stockholders’ equity   8.37    12.40    8.06    5.99    7.21 
Net interest margin   4.12    4.59    4.74    4.60    4.57 
Efficiency ratio   76.25    70.92    74.94    69.35    61.30 
                          
Loan Quality Ratios:                         
Net charge-offs to average loans*   0.22%   0.34%   0.75%   2.87%   2.21%
Allowance for loan losses to total loans *   0.85    1.12    1.38    1.63    2.64 
Nonperforming assets to total loans and OREO**   1.60    3.35    3.49    5.28    8.76 
                          
Liquidity Ratios:                         
Loans to total deposits   80.11%   82.64%   81.94%   74.61%   73.45%
Average loans to average earnings assets   75.96    80.22    78.08    77.83    76.72 
Noninterest-bearing deposits to total deposits   27.26    24.46    22.29    19.46    15.26 
                          
Capital Adequacy Ratios:                         
Stockholders’ equity to total assets   9.21%   9.07%   8.63%   9.24%   9.81%
Common stock dividend payout ratio   15.76    10.37    -    -    - 

 

*Excludes purchased non-covered and covered assets.
**Excludes covered assets.

 

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ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

 

OVERVIEW

 

During 2015, the Company reported net income available to common shareholders of approximately $40.8 million, or $1.27 per share, compared with $38.4 million, or $1.46 per share, in 2014. The Company’s net income as a percentage of average assets for 2015 and 2014 was 0.85% and 1.08%, respectively, while the Company’s net income as a percentage of average shareholders’ equity was 8.37% and 12.40%, respectively.

 

Highlights of the Company’s performance in 2015 include the following:

 

The Company completed the acquisition of Merchants and 18 additional retail branches, increasing total assets by approximately $1.14 billion, total loans by approximately $195.5 million and total deposits by approximately $1.05 billion. The Merchants acquisition added thirteen retail offices in the Gainesville and Ocala, Florida markets, and the branch acquisitions added eighteen branches in North Florida and South Georgia. The Company recorded $14.7 million in additional goodwill and $3.9 million in core deposit intangibles associated with the Merchants acquisition and $11.2 million in additional goodwill and $8.6 million in core deposit intangibles associated with the branch acquisition.

 

The Company announced the execution of an agreement to acquire JAXB, the parent company of The Jacksonville Bank. The Jacksonville Bank currently operates eight banking locations, all of which are located within the Jacksonville, Florida MSA. The acquisition will further expand the Company’s existing Southeastern footprint in the attractive Jacksonville market, where the Company will be the largest community bank by deposit market share after the acquisition. Upon completion of the transaction, the combined company will have approximately $6.0 billion in assets, $4.2 billion in loans and $5.2 billion in deposits. The transaction is expected to close in March 2016.

 

Non-accrual loans, excluding purchased loans, decreased approximately $4.9 million, or 22.4%, to $16.9 million during 2015. Legacy OREO (excluding purchased OREO and OREO sourced from purchased loans) decreased significantly from $33.2 million at December 31, 2014 to $16.1 million at December 31, 2015. Net charge-offs for 2015 declined to 0.22% of total legacy loans, compared with 0.34% for 2014.

 

Tangible common equity to tangible assets increased slightly from 7.42% at December 31, 2014 to 7.44% at December 31, 2015. Tangible common book value per share increased 15.1% from $10.99 at December 31, 2014 to $12.65 at December 31, 2015.

 

Net income from the Company’s retail mortgage division increased 88.4% during 2015 to $9.3 million.

 

Net income from the Company’s SBA division increased 24.7% during 2015 to $2.8 million.

 

The Company’s net interest margin decreased to 4.12% in 2015, from 4.59% in 2014. Lower yields on most earning asset classes were offset by lower funding costs. Deposit costs, the Company’s largest funding expense, continued to decline from 0.30% in 2014 to 0.23% in 2015, due to shifts in the deposit mix.

 

CRITICAL ACCOUNTING POLICIES

 

Ameris has established certain accounting and financial reporting policies to govern the application of accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”) in the preparation of our financial statements. Our significant accounting policies are described in Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements. Certain accounting policies involve significant judgments and assumptions by management which have a material impact on the carrying value of certain assets and liabilities; management considers these accounting policies to be critical accounting policies. The judgments and assumptions used by management are based on historical experience and other factors which are believed to be reasonable under the circumstances. Because of the nature of the judgments and assumptions made by management, actual results could differ from the judgments and estimates adopted by management which could have a material impact on the carrying values of assets and liabilities and the results of our operations. We believe the following accounting policies applied by Ameris represent critical accounting policies.

 

Allowance for Loan Losses

 

We believe the allowance for loan losses is a critical accounting policy that requires the most significant judgments and estimates used in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements. The allowance for loan losses represents management’s estimate of probable incurred losses in the Company’s loan portfolio. Calculation of the allowance for loan losses represents a critical accounting estimate due to the significant judgment, assumptions and estimates related to the amount and timing of estimated losses, consideration of subjective environmental factors and the amount and timing of cash flows related to impaired loans.

 

 29 

 

 

Management believes that the allowance for loan losses is adequate. While management uses available information to recognize losses on loans, future additions to the allowance for loan losses may be necessary based on changes in economic conditions. In addition, various regulatory agencies, as an integral part of their examination processes, periodically review the Company’s allowance for loan losses. Such agencies may require the Company to recognize additions to the allowance for loan losses based on their judgments about information available to them at the time of their examination.

 

Considering current information and events regarding a borrower’s ability to repay its obligations, management considers a loan to be impaired when the ultimate collectability of all amounts due, according to the contractual terms of the loan agreement, is in doubt. When a loan is considered to be impaired, the amount of impairment is measured based on the present value of expected future cash flows discounted at the loan’s effective interest rate or if the loan is collateral-dependent, the fair value of the collateral is used to determine the amount of impairment. Impairment losses are included in the allowance for loan losses through a charge to the provision for losses on loans.

 

Subsequent recoveries are credited to the allowance for loan losses. Cash receipts for accruing loans are applied to principal and interest under the contractual terms of the loan agreement. Cash receipts on impaired loans for which the accrual of interest has been discontinued are applied first to principal and then to interest income.

 

Certain economic and interest rate factors could have a material impact on the determination of the allowance for loan losses. An improving economy could result in the expansion of businesses and creation of jobs which would positively affect our loan growth and improve our gross revenue stream. Conversely, certain factors could result from an expanding economy which could increase our credit costs and adversely impact our net earnings. A significant rapid rise in interest rates could create higher borrowing costs and shrinking corporate profits which could have a material impact on a borrower’s ability to pay. We will continue to concentrate on maintaining a high quality loan portfolio through strict administration of our loan policy.

 

Another factor that we have considered in the determination of the allowance for loan losses is loan concentrations to individual borrowers or industries. At December 31, 2015, we did not have any individual loan that exceeded our in-house credit limit of $20.0 million. We had three relationships consisting of 12 different non-covered loans that exceeded our $20.0 million in-house credit limit. Total exposure resulting from these three relationships was $80.1 million. Additional disclosure concerning the Company’s largest loan relationships is provided in the “Balance Sheet Comparison” section below.

 

A substantial portion of our loan portfolio is in the commercial real estate and residential real estate sectors. Those loans are secured by real estate in our primary market areas. A substantial portion of OREO is located in those same markets. Therefore, the ultimate collectability of a substantial portion of our loan portfolio and the recoverability of a substantial portion of the carrying amount of OREO are susceptible to changes to market conditions in our primary market area.

 

Fair Value Accounting Estimates

 

GAAP requires the use of fair values in determining the carrying values of certain assets and liabilities, as well as for specific disclosures. The most significant include impaired loans, OREO, and the net assets acquired in business combinations. Certain of these assets do not have a readily available market to determine fair value and require an estimate based on specific parameters. When market prices are unavailable, we determine fair values utilizing estimates, which are constantly changing, including interest rates, duration, prepayment speeds and other specific conditions. In most cases, these specific parameters require a significant amount of judgment by management. At December 31, 2015, the percentage of the Company’s assets measured at fair value was 17%. See Note 22, “Fair Value of Financial Instruments,” in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements herein for additional disclosures regarding the fair value of our assets and liabilities.

 

When a loan is considered impaired, a specific valuation allowance is allocated, if necessary, so that the loan is reported net, at the present value of estimated future cash flows using the loan’s existing rate or at the fair value of collateral if repayment is expected solely from the collateral. In addition, foreclosed assets are carried at the net realizable value, following foreclosure. The Company’s impaired loans and foreclosed property are concentrated in markets and areas where the determination of fair value through market research (recent sales and/or qualified appraisals) is difficult. Accordingly, the determination of fair value in the current environment is difficult and more subjective than it would be in traditionally stable real estate environments. Although management believes its processes for determining the value of these assets are appropriate and allow Ameris to arrive at a fair value, the processes require management judgment and assumptions and the value of such assets at the time they are revalued or divested may be different from management’s determination of fair value.

 

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Business Combinations

 

Assets purchased and liabilities assumed in a business combination are recorded at their fair value. The fair value of a loan portfolio acquired in a business combination requires greater levels of management estimates and judgment than the remainder of purchased assets or assumed liabilities. On the date of acquisition, when the loans have evidence of credit deterioration since origination and it is probable at the date of acquisition that the Company will not collect all contractually required principal and interest payments, the difference between contractually required payments at acquisition and the cash flows expected to be collected at acquisition is referred to as the non-accretable difference. The Company must estimate expected cash flows at each reporting date. Subsequent decreases to the expected cash flows will generally result in a provision for loan losses. Subsequent increases in cash flows result in a reversal of the provision for loan losses to the extent of prior charges and adjusted accretable yield which will have a positive impact on interest income. In addition, purchased loans without evidence of credit deterioration are also handled under this method.

 

Income Taxes

 

GAAP requires the asset and liability approach for financial accounting and reporting for deferred income taxes. We use the asset and liability method of accounting for deferred income taxes and provide deferred income taxes for all significant income tax temporary differences. See Note 16, “Income Taxes,” in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for additional details.

 

As part of the process of preparing our consolidated financial statements we are required to estimate our income taxes in each of the jurisdictions in which we operate. This process involves estimating our actual current tax exposure together with assessing temporary differences resulting from differing treatment of items, such as gains on FDIC-assisted transactions and the provision for loan losses, for tax and financial reporting purposes. These differences result in deferred tax assets and liabilities that are included in our consolidated balance sheet.

 

We must also assess the likelihood that our deferred tax assets will be recovered from future taxable income, and to the extent we believe that recovery is not likely, we must establish a valuation allowance. Significant management judgment is required in determining our provision for income taxes, our deferred tax assets and liabilities and any valuation allowance recorded against our net deferred tax assets. To the extent we establish a valuation allowance or adjust this allowance in a period, we must include an expense within the tax provisions in the statement of income.

 

Long-Lived Assets, Including Intangibles

 

Intangible assets consist of goodwill and core deposit intangibles. Goodwill represents the excess purchase price over the fair value of net assets acquired in business acquisitions. Core deposit intangibles represent premiums paid for deposits acquired via acquisition and are being amortized over its estimated useful life, typically five to seven years.

 

NET INCOME/(LOSS) AND EARNINGS PER SHARE

 

The Company’s net income available to common shareholders during 2015 was approximately $40.8 million, or $1.27 per diluted share, compared with $38.4 million, or $1.46 per diluted share, in 2014, and $18.3 million, or $0.75 per diluted share, in 2013.

 

For the fourth quarter of 2015, the Company recorded net income available to common shareholders of approximately $14.1 million, or $0.43 per diluted share, compared with $10.6 million, or $0.39 per diluted share, for the quarter ended December 31, 2014, and $966,000, or $0.04 per diluted share, for the quarter ended December 31, 2013.

 

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EARNING ASSETS AND LIABILITIES

 

Average earning assets were approximately $4.32 billion in 2015, compared with approximately $3.30 billion in 2014. The earning asset and interest-bearing liability mix is regularly monitored to maximize the net interest margin and, therefore, increase return on assets and shareholders’ equity.

 

The following statistical information should be read in conjunction with the remainder of “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation” and the Consolidated Financial Statements and related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report and in the documents incorporated herein by reference.

 

The following tables set forth the amount of our interest income or interest expense for each category of interest-earning assets and interest-bearing liabilities and the average interest rate for total interest-earning assets and total interest-bearing liabilities, net interest spread and net interest margin on average interest-earning assets. Federally tax-exempt income is presented on a taxable-equivalent basis assuming a 35% federal tax rate.

 

   Year Ended December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013 
   Average
Balance
   Interest
Income/
Expense
   Average
Yield/
Rate Paid
   Average
Balance
   Interest
Income/
Expense
   Average
Yield/
Rate Paid
   Average
Balance
   Interest
Income/
Expense
   Average
Yield/
Rate Paid
 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
ASSETS                                             
Interest-earning assets:                                             
Mortgage loans held for sale  $87,952   $3,466    3.94%  $71,231   $2,593    3.64%  $110,542   $3,883    3.51%
Loans   2,161,726    103,206    4.77    1,753,013    87,727    5.00    1,478,816    80,005    5.41 
Purchased non-covered loans   712,022    46,208    6.49    557,708    40,020    7.18    11,065    570    5.15 
Purchased loan pools   201,689    6,481    3.21    -    -    -    -    -    - 
Covered loans   206,774    14,128    6.83    339,417    21,355    6.29    440,923    33,587    7.62 
Investment securities   731,165    18,657    2.55    508,383    14,281    2.81    332,413    9,041    2.72 
Short-term assets   219,620    823    0.37    73,715    244    0.33    98,945    278    0.28 
                                              
Total interest- earning assets   4,320,948    192,969    4.47    3,303,467    166,220    5.03    2,472,704    127,364    5.15 
                                              
Noninterest-earning assets   483,297              427,814              375,825           
                                              
Total assets  $4,804,245             $3,731,281             $2,848,529           
                                              
LIABILITIES AND STOCKHOLDERS’ EQUITY                                             
                                              
Interest-bearing liabilities:                                             
Savings and interest-bearing demand deposits  $2,088,859   $4,848    0.23%  $1,680,328   $4,435    0.26%  $1,327,205   $3,521    0.27%
Time deposits   810,344    4,905    0.61    768,420    5,054    0.66    671,083    4,878    0.73 
Other borrowings   91,919    1,536    1.67    86,986    1,924    2.21    28,935    307    1.06 
FHLB advances   8,444    31    0.37    46,986    140    0.30    2,400    63    2.63 
Subordinated deferrable interest debentures   67,962    3,536    5.20    60,298    3,127    5.19    43,276    1,368    3.16 
Total interest-bearing liabilities   3,067,528    14,856    0.48    2,643,018    14,680    0.56    2,072,899    10,137    0.49 
                                              
Demand deposits   1,227,682              751,874              489,613           
Other liabilities   16,793              19,989              8,844           
Stockholders’ equity   492,242              316,400              277,173           
                                              
Total liabilities and stockholders’ equity  $4,804,425             $3,731,281             $2,848,529           
Interest rate spread             3.98%             4.47%             4.66%
Net interest income       $178,113             $151,540             $117,227      
                                              
Net interest margin             4.12%             4.59%             4.74%

 

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RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

 

Net Interest Income

 

Net interest income represents the amount by which interest income on interest-earning assets exceeds interest expense incurred on interest-bearing liabilities. Net interest income is the largest component of our income and is affected by the interest rate environment and the volume and composition of interest-earning assets and interest-bearing liabilities. Our interest-earning assets include loans, investment securities, interest-bearing deposits in banks and federal funds sold. Our interest-bearing liabilities include deposits, securities sold under agreements to repurchase, other borrowings and subordinated debentures.

 

2015 compared with 2014. For the year ended December 31, 2015, interest income was $190.4 million, an increase of $25.8 million, or 15.7%, compared with the same period in 2014. Average earning assets increased $1.02 billion, or 30.8%, to $4.32 billion for the year ended December 31, 2015, compared with $3.30 billion as of December 31, 2014. Yield on average earning assets on a taxable equivalent basis decreased during 2015 to 4.47%, compared with 5.03% for the year ended December 31, 2014. However, lower yields on most earning assets have been partially offset by lower funding costs.

 

Interest expense on deposits and other borrowings for the year ended December 31, 2015 was $14.9 million, compared with $14.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2014. The Company’s funding mix continued to improve during 2015, leading to savings in cost of funds. During 2015, average noninterest-bearing accounts amounted to $1.23 billion and comprised 29.2% of average total deposits, compared with $751.9 million, or 23.5% of average total deposits, during 2014. Average balances of time deposits amounted to $810.3 million and comprised 19.3% of average total deposits during 2015, compared with $768.4 million, or 24.0% of average total deposits, during 2014.

 

On a taxable-equivalent basis, net interest income for 2015 was $178.1 million, compared with $151.5 million in 2014, an increase of $26.6 million, or 17.5%. The Company’s net interest margin, on a tax equivalent basis, decreased to 4.12% for the year ended December 31, 2015, compared with 4.59% for the year ended December 31, 2014.

 

2014 compared with 2013. For the year ended December 31, 2014, interest income was $164.6 million, an increase of $38.2 million, or 30.3%, compared with the same period in 2013. Average earning assets increased $830.8 million, or 33.6%, to $3.30 billion for the year ended December 31, 2014, compared with $2.47 billion as of December 31, 2013. Yield on average earning assets on a taxable equivalent basis decreased during 2014 to 5.03%, compared with 5.15% for the year ended December 31, 2013.

 

Interest expense on deposits and other borrowings for the year ended December 31, 2014 was $14.7 million, compared with $10.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2013. The Company’s funding mix continued to improve during 2014, leading to savings in cost of funds. During 2014, average noninterest-bearing accounts amounted to $751.9 million and comprised 23.5% of average total deposits, compared with $489.6 million, or 19.7% of average total deposits, during 2013. Average balances of time deposits amounted to $768.4 million and comprised 24.0% of average total deposits during 2014, compared with $671.1 million, or 27.0% of average total deposits, during 2013.

 

On a taxable-equivalent basis, net interest income for 2014 was $151.5 million, compared with $117.2 million in 2013, an increase of $34.3 million, or 29.3%. The Company’s net interest margin, on a tax equivalent basis, decreased to 4.59% for the year ended December 31, 2014, compared with 4.74% for the year ended December 31, 2013.

 

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The summary of changes in interest income and interest expense on a fully taxable equivalent basis resulting from changes in volume and changes in rates for each category of earning assets and interest-bearing liabilities for the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2014 are shown in the following table:

 

   2015 vs. 2014   2014 vs. 2013 
   Increase   Changes Due To   Increase   Changes Due to 
   (Decrease)   Rate   Volume   (Decrease)   Rate   Volume 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
Increase (decrease) in:                              
Income from earning assets:                              
Interest on mortgage loans held for sale  $873   $264   $609   $(1,290)  $91   $(1,381)
Interest and fees on loans   15,479    (4,974)   20,453    7,722    (7,112)   14,834 
Interest on purchased non-covered loans   6,188    (4,885)   11,073    39,450    11,290    28,160 
Interest on purchased loan pools   6,481    -    6,481    -    -    - 
Interest on covered loans   (7,227)   1,118    (8,345)   (12,232)   (4,500)   (7,732)
Interest on securities   4,376    (1,882)   6,258    5,240    454    4,786 
Short-term assets   579    96    483    (34)   37    (71)
Total interest income   26,749    (10,263)   37,012    38,856    260    38,596 
                               
Expense from interest-bearing liabilities:                              
Interest on savings and interest-bearing demand deposits   413    (665)   1,078    914    (23)   937 
Interest on time deposits   (149)   (425)   276    176    (532)   708 
Interest on other borrowings   (388)   (497)   109    1,617    1,001    616 
Interest on FHLB advances   (109)   6    (115)   77    (1,093)   1,170 
Interest on trust preferred securities   409    12    397    1,759    1,221    538 
Total interest expense   176    (1,569)   1,745    4,543    574    3,969 
                               
Net interest income  $26,573   $(8,694)  $35,267   $34,313   $(314)  $34,627 

 

Provision for Loan Losses

 

The allowance for loan losses is a reserve established through charges to earnings in the form of a provision for loan losses. The provision for loan losses is based on management’s evaluation of the size and composition of the loan portfolio, the level of non-performing and past due loans, historical trends of charged-off loans and recoveries, prevailing economic conditions and other factors management deems appropriate. As these factors change, the level of loan loss provision may change.

 

The Company’s provision for loan losses during 2015 amounted to $5.3 million, compared with $5.6 million for 2014 and $11.5 million in 2013. Net charge-offs in 2015 were 0.22% of average loans, excluding purchased loans and the loans covered by the FDIC-loss-sharing agreements, compared with 0.34% in 2014 and 0.69% in 2013.

 

At December 31, 2015, non-performing assets, excluding assets covered by the FDIC-loss-sharing agreements, amounted to $60.7 million, or 1.09% of total assets, compared with 2.17% at December 31, 2014. Legacy non-performing assets totaled $33.0 million and acquired, non-covered non-performing assets totaled $27.7 million at December 31, 2015. Legacy other real estate was approximately $16.1 million as of December 31, 2015, reflecting a 51.3% decrease from the $33.2 million reported at December 31, 2014. Purchased, non-covered other real estate was $14.3 million at December 31, 2015, compared with $15.6 million at December 31, 2014. The Company’s allowance for loan losses at December 31, 2015 was $21.1 million, or 0.85% of loans, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans, compared with $21.2 million, or 1.12%, and $22.4 million, or 1.38%, at December 31, 2014 and 2013, respectively.

 

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Noninterest Income

 

Following is a comparison of noninterest income for 2015, 2014 and 2013.

 

   Years Ended December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
Service charges on deposit accounts  $34,465   $24,614   $19,545 
Mortgage banking activities   36,800    25,986    19,128 
Other service charges, commissions and fees   3,754    2,647    2,151 
Gain on sales of securities   137    138    171 
Gain on sale of SBA loans   4,522    3,896    1,500 
Other income   5,908    5,555    4,054 
   $85,586   $62,836   $46,549 

 

2015 compared with 2014. Total noninterest income in 2015 was $85.6 million, compared with $62.8 million in 2014, an increase of $22.8 million. This increase is due to a $10.8 million increase in mortgage banking activity, a $9.9 million increase in service charges on deposit accounts, a $1.1 million increase in other service charges, a $626,000 increase in gain on the sale of SBA loans and a $353,000 increase in other income.

 

Income from mortgage banking activities continued to increase during 2015, from $26.0 million in 2014 to $36.8 million in 2015, as the Company’s mortgage division reached a mature stage with a team of long-tenured mortgage bankers producing strong results.

 

Service charges on deposit accounts increased $9.9 million, or 40.0%, in 2015 as a result of acquisition activity and successful efforts on commercial deposit accounts. Other service charges increased $1.1 million, or 41.8%, in 2015 due to acquisitions and increased sales efforts. Since 2011, the Company has devoted significant resources to both treasury deposit products and treasury sales professionals, which contributed significantly to the Company’s growth in non-interest bearing deposits.

 

Gains on sales of SBA loans increased $626,000 to $4.5 million during 2015, as the Company continued its efforts to build an SBA division.

 

2014 compared with 2013. Total noninterest income in 2014 was $62.8 million, compared with $46.5 million in 2013, an increase of $16.3 million. The majority of this increase relates to a $6.9 million increase in mortgage banking activity, a $5.1 million increase in service charges on deposit accounts, a $3.9 million increase in other income, and a $496,000 increase in other service charges.

 

Income from mortgage banking activities increased substantially during 2014, from $19.1 million in 2013 to $26.0 million in 2014, as the Company’s mortgage division continued its growth.

 

Other income increased $3.9 million, or 70.2%, from $5.6 million in 2013 to $9.5 million in 2014. The Company’s recent efforts to build an SBA division resulted in significant gains in revenue and net income. During 2014, the Company recorded $3.9 million of gains on sales of SBA loans and $1.0 million of SBA servicing fee income, compared with gains on sales of SBA loans of $1.5 million and SBA servicing fee income of $611,000 in 2013.

 

Service charges on deposit accounts increased 25.9% in 2014, also as a result of acquisition activity and successful efforts on commercial deposit accounts.

 

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Noninterest Expense

 

Following is a comparison of noninterest expense for 2015, 2014 and 2013.

 

   Years Ended December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
Salaries and employee benefits  $94,003   $73,878   $56,670 
Equipment and occupancy   21,195    17,521    12,286 
Amortization of intangible assets   3,741    2,330    1,414 
Data processing and communication costs   19,849    15,551    11,539 
Advertising and public relations   3,312    2,869    1,620 
Postage & delivery   1,810    1,392    1,017 
Printing & supplies   2,554    1,331    962 
Legal fees   942    743    615 
Other professional fees   2,506    2,349    1,526 
Directors fees   1,203    810    722 
FDIC assessments   3,475    2,972    2,323 
Acquisition expenses   7,980    3,940    4,350 
OREO and problem loan expenses   17,707    13,506    15,486 
Other expense   18,838    11,677    11,415 
   $199,115   $150,869   $121,945 

 

2015 compared with 2014. Operating expenses increased from $150.9 million in 2014 to $199.1 million in 2015. The primary drivers of the increase in operating expenses are the increased number of branch locations and continued growth and expansion in the Company’s mortgage and SBA divisions. Salaries and employee benefits increased 27.2% from $73.9 million in 2014 to $94.0 million in 2015. Equipment and occupancy expense increased 21.0% from $17.5 million in 2014 to $21.2 million in 2015. Data processing and telecommunications expense increased during 2015 to $19.8 million, an increase of 27.6% compared with the $15.6 million reported for 2014. The majority of these expense increases are attributable to the additional branches acquired during 2014 and 2015. Postage and delivery, printing and supplies, legal fees and other professional fees all increased during 2015 to support the larger operations of the Company.

 

Acquisition expenses of $8.0 million in 2015 relate to the Merchants and branch acquisitions, compared with the $3.9 million recorded in 2014 related to the Coastal acquisition. Problem loan and OREO expenses increased $4.2 million in 2015. During the second quarter of 2015, the Company recorded $11.2 million of pre-tax OREO write-downs and other credit resolution-related expenses related to an aggressive write-down on remaining non-performing assets in order to expedite their liquidation. Excluding acquisition and credit-related expenses, total operating expenses were $173.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2015, compared with $133.4 million for 2014. Expressed as a percentage of average assets, total operating expense net of credit-related and acquisition costs was 3.61% in 2015, a slight increase from 3.58% reported for 2014.

 

2014 compared with 2013. Operating expenses increased from $121.9 million in 2013 to $150.9 million in 2014. The primary drivers of the increase in operating expenses are the increased number of branch locations and continued growth and expansion in the Company’s mortgage and SBA divisions. Salaries and employee benefits increased 30.4% from $56.7 million in 2013 to $73.9 million in 2014. Equipment and occupancy expense increased 42.6% from $12.3 million in 2013 to $17.5 million in 2014. Data processing and telecommunications expense increased during 2014 to $15.6 million, an increase of 34.8% compared with the $11.5 million reported for 2013. Advertising and public relations increased $1.2 million during 2014, as the Company incurred these costs to support various revenue and growth strategies throughout the year. Postage and delivery, printing and supplies, legal fees and other professional fees all increased during 2014 to support the Company’s growth.

 

Acquisition expenses of $3.9 million in 2014 relate to the Coastal acquisition, compared with the $4.4 million recorded in 2013 related to the Prosperity acquisition. Problem loan and OREO expenses decreased $2.0 million in 2014, as the level of OREO and problem loans declined and general economic conditions improved. Excluding acquisition and credit-related expenses, total operating expenses were $133.4 million for the year ended December 31, 2014, compared with $102.1 million for 2013. Expressed as a percentage of average assets, total operating expense net of credit-related and non-recurring acquisition costs in 2014 was 3.58%, a slight increase from 3.47% reported for 2013.

 

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Income Taxes

 

Federal income tax expense is influenced by the amount of taxable income, the amount of tax-exempt income and the amount of non-deductible expenses. For the year ended December 31, 2015, the Company recorded income tax expense of approximately $15.9 million, compared with $17.5 million recorded in 2014 and $9.3 million recorded in 2013. The Company’s effective tax rate was 28%, 31% and 32% for the years ended December 31, 2015, 2014 and 2013, respectively.

 

BALANCE SHEET COMPARISON

 

LOANS

 

Management believes that our loan portfolio is adequately diversified. The loan portfolio contains no foreign loans or significant concentrations in any one industry. As of December 31, 2015, approximately 79.8% of our legacy loan portfolio was secured by real estate. The amount of loans outstanding, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans, at the indicated dates is shown in the following table according to type of loans.

 

   December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                     
Commercial, financial & agricultural  $449,623   $319,654   $244,373   $174,217   $142,960 
Real estate – construction & development   244,693    161,507    146,371    114,199    130,270 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   1,104,991    907,524    808,323    732,322    672,765 
Real estate – residential   570,430    456,106    351,886    346,480    330,727 
Consumer installment loans   31,125    30,782    34,249    40,178    37,296 
Other   6,015    14,308    33,252    43,239    18,068 
    2,406,877    1,889,881    1,618,454    1,450,635    1,332,086 
Less allowance for loan losses   20,481    21,157    22,377    23,593    35,156 
Loans, net  $2,386,396   $1,868,724   $1,596,077   $1,427,042   $1,296,930 

 

The following table provides additional disclosure on the various loan types comprising the subgroup “Real estate – commercial & farmland” at December 31, 2015 (in thousands):

 

   Outstanding
Balance
   Average
Maturity
(Months)
   Average Rate   % non-accrual 
                 
Owner-Occupied  $368,842    48    5.14%   0.58%
Farmland   158,747    30    5.29%   1.96%
Apartments   79,123    52    4.80%   - 
Hotels / Motels   37,170    52    5.14%   - 
Auto Dealers   1,564    35    4.65%   - 
Offices / Office Buildings   116,403    54    4.99%   - 
Strip Centers (Anchored & Non-Anchored)   105,080    47    4.63%   - 
Convenience Stores   9,311    32    4.98%   7.70%
Retail Properties   123,536    58    4.98%   0.49%
Warehouse Properties   75,120    54    5.01%   - 
All Other   30,095    37    5.63%   1.49%
   $1,104,991    44    5.15%   0.64%

 

 37 

 

 

The Company seeks to diversify its loan portfolio across its geographic footprint and in various loan types. Also, the Company’s stated in-house legal lending limit for a single loan is $20.0 million, which would normally prevent a concentration with a single loan project. Certain lending relationships may contain more than one loan and, consequently, exceed the in-house lending limit. The Company regularly monitors its largest loan relationships to avoid a concentration with a single borrower. The largest 25 loan relationships are summarized below by type and compared to the Bank’s loan portfolio taken as a whole (in thousands):

 

   Balance   Average Rate   Average
Maturity
(months)
   % unsecured   % in non-
accrual  status
 
                     
Commercial, financial & agricultural  $141,524    3.13%   95    31.8%   - 
Real estate – construction & development   29,190    4.03%   45    -    - 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   118,023    4.18%   68    -    - 
Real estate – residential   23,972    4.01%   45    -    - 
Total  $312,709    3.87%   70    14.4%   - 
Ameris Bank Loan Portfolio  $2,406,877    6.04%   40    3.6%   0.70%

 

Total legacy loans, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans, as of December 31, 2015, are shown in the following table according to their contractual maturity:

 

   Contractual Maturity in: 
   One Year or
Less
   Over One Year
through  Five
Years
   Over Five
Years
   Total 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                 
Commercial, financial & agricultural  $108,619   $119,386   $221,618   $449,623 
Real estate – construction & development   83,653    108,617    52,423    244,693 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   158,602    578,847    367,542    1,104,991 
Real estate – residential   157,401    189,461    223,568    570,430 
Consumer installment loans   5,833    24,614    678    31,125 
Other   6,015    -    -    6,015 
   $520,123   $1,020,925   $865,829   $2,406,877 

 

The following table summarizes loans at December 31, 2015, with maturity dates after one year which (i) have predetermined interest rates and (ii) have floating or adjustable interest rates.

 

   (Dollars in
Thousands)
 
     
Predetermined interest rates   $1,419,995 
Floating or adjustable interest rates    466,759 
   $1,886,754 

 

Purchased Non-Covered Assets

 

Loans that were acquired in transactions and are not covered by the loss-sharing agreements with the FDIC (“purchased non-covered loans”) totaled $771.6 million and $674.2 million at December 31, 2015 and 2014, respectively. OREO that was acquired in transactions and is not covered by the loss-sharing agreements with the FDIC totaled $14.3 million and $15.6 million at December 31, 2015 and 2014, respectively. Purchased non-covered assets include assets that were acquired in FDIC-assisted transactions but that are no longer covered by the loss-sharing agreements due to the expiration of such agreements.

 

 38 

 

 

The Bank initially recorded the loans at their fair values, taking into consideration certain credit quality and interest rate risk. The Company believes its estimation of credit risk and its adjustments to the carrying balances of the acquired loans is adequate. If the Company determines that a loan or group of loans has deteriorated from its initial assessment of fair value, the identified loss will be charged off and provision expense is recorded for that difference. During the year ended December 31, 2015, the Company recorded a net provision for loan loss credit of $237,000 due to recoveries received on previously charged off purchased non-covered loans. During the year ended December 31, 2014, the Company recorded provision for loan loss expense of $84,000 to account for losses where there was a decrease in cash flows from the initial estimates on purchased non-covered loans. If the Company determines that a loan or group of loans has improved from its initial assessment of fair value, then the increase in cash flows over those expected at the acquisition date is recognized as interest income prospectively.

 

The amount of purchased, non-covered loans outstanding, at the indicated dates, is shown in the following table according to type of loan.

 

   December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                     
Commercial, financial & agricultural   $45,462   $38,041   $32,141   $-   $- 
Real estate – construction & development    72,080    58,362    31,176    -    - 
Real estate – commercial & farmland    390,755    306,706    179,898    -    - 
Real estate – residential    258,153    266,342    200,851    -    - 
Consumer installment loans    5,104    4,788    4,687    -    - 
Other    -    -    -    -    - 
Total purchased, non-covered loans  $771,554   $674,239   $448,753   $-   $- 

 

Purchased loans as of December 31, 2015, are shown below according to their contractual maturity:

 

   Contractual Maturity in: 
   One Year or
Less
   Over One Year
through  Five
Years
   Over Five
Years
   Total 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                 
Purchased, non-covered loans  $111,334   $222,771   $437,449   $771,554 
Covered loans   41,035    50,899    45,595    137,529 
Total Purchased loans  $152,369   $273,670   $483,044   $909,083 

 

Purchased Loan Pools

 

Purchased loan pools are defined as groups of loans that were not acquired in bank acquisitions or FDIC-assisted transactions. As of December 31, 2015, purchased loan pools totaled $593.0 million and consisted of whole-loan, adjustable rate residential mortgages on properties outside the Company’s markets, with principal balances totaling $580.7 million and $12.3 million of purchase premium paid at acquisition. The Company has allocated approximately $581,000 of the allowance for loan losses to the purchased loan pools. The Company did not have any purchased loan pools prior to 2015.

 

Assets Covered by Loss-Sharing Agreements with the FDIC

 

Loans that were acquired in FDIC-assisted transactions that are covered by the loss-sharing agreements with the FDIC (“covered loans”) totaling $137.5 million and $271.3 million at December 31, 2015 and 2014, respectively, are not included in the preceding tables. OREO that is covered by the loss-sharing agreements with the FDIC totaled $5.0 million and $19.9 million at December 31, 2015 and 2014, respectively. The loss-sharing agreements are subject to the servicing procedures as specified in the agreements with the FDIC. The expected reimbursements under the loss-sharing agreements were recorded as an indemnification asset at their estimated fair value at the respective acquisition dates. The net FDIC loss-share receivable reported at December 31, 2015 and 2014 was $6.3 million and $31.4 million, respectively.

 

 39 

 

 

The Company recorded the loans at their fair values, taking into consideration certain credit quality and interest rate risk. If the Company determines that a loan or group of loans has deteriorated from its initial assessment of fair value, the identified loss is charged off and a provision for loan loss is recorded. For the years ended December 31, 2015, 2014 and 2013, the Company recorded approximately $751,000, $843,000 and $1.5 million, respectively, of provision for loan losses to account for decreases in estimated cash flows on loans acquired in FDIC-assisted transactions. If the Company determines that a loan or group of loans has improved from its initial assessment of fair value, the increase in cash flows over those expected at the acquisition date are recognized as interest income prospectively. Covered loans are shown below according to loan type as of the end of the years shown (in thousands):

 

   December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                     
Commercial, financial & agricultural  $5,546   $21,467   $26,550   $32,606   $41,867 
Real estate – construction & development   7,612    23,447    43,179    70,184    77,077 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   71,226    147,627    224,451    278,506    321,257 
Real estate – residential   53,038    78,520    95,173    125,056    127,644 
Consumer installment loans   107    218    884    1,360    3,644 
Other   -    -    -    -    - 
Total covered loans  $137,529   $271,279   $390,237   $507,712   $571,489 

 

ALLOWANCE AND PROVISION FOR LOAN LOSSES

 

The allowance for loan losses represents a reserve for probable incurred losses in the loan portfolio. The adequacy of the allowance for loan losses is evaluated periodically based on a review of all significant loans, with a particular emphasis on non-accruing, past due and other loans that management believes might be potentially impaired or warrant additional attention. We segregate our loan portfolio by type of loan and utilize this segregation in evaluating exposure to risks within the portfolio. In addition, based on internal reviews and external reviews performed by independent loan reviewers and regulatory authorities, we further segregate our loan portfolio by loan grades based on an assessment of risk for a particular loan or group of loans. Certain reviewed loans are assigned specific allowances when a review of relevant data determines that a general allocation is not sufficient or when the review affords management the opportunity to fine tune the amount of exposure in a given credit. In establishing allowances, management considers historical loan loss experience but adjusts this data with a significant emphasis on data such as current loan quality trends, current economic conditions and other factors in the markets where the Bank operates. Factors considered include, among others, current valuations of real estate in our markets, unemployment rates, the effect of weather conditions on agricultural related entities and other significant local economic events, such as major plant closings.

 

We have developed a methodology for determining the adequacy of the allowance for loan losses which is monitored by the Company’s Chief Credit Officer. Procedures provide for the assignment of a risk rating for every loan included in our total loan portfolio, with the exception of warehouse lines of credit and overdraft protection loans which are treated as pools for risk rating purposes. The risk rating schedule provides nine ratings of which five ratings are classified as pass ratings and four ratings are classified as criticized ratings. Each risk rating is assigned a percent factor to be applied to the loan balance to determine the adequate amount of allowance. Many of the larger loans require an annual review by an independent loan officer and are often reviewed by independent third parties. As a result of these loan reviews, certain loans may be assigned specific allowance allocations. Other loans that surface as problem loans may also be assigned specific allowance allocations. Assigned risk ratings can be adjusted based on the number of days past due. The calculation of the allowance for loan losses, including underlying data and assumptions, is reviewed regularly by the independent internal loan review department.

 

The primary contributor to the allowance for loan losses is historical losses by loan type.  The Company’s look-back period for historical losses is 16 quarters.  Current period losses are substantially lower than those incurred four years ago, which has reduced the need in the allowance for loan losses, as a percentage of loans, at December 31, 2015, as compared to prior periods. The Company’s trends for most of the qualitative factors currently utilized in the allowance for loan losses are positive compared to prior periods, which also contributes to a lower current need in the allowance for loan losses. Additionally, approximately 70% of the Company’s loan growth during 2015 consisted of municipal loans, residential mortgages and purchased residential loan pools, each of which presents a lower risk of default than other loan types, such as acquisition, construction and development or investor commercial real estate loans. The growth in lower-risk loans during 2015, combined with the improved historical loss rates and qualitative factors, are the primary reasons the allowance for loan losses as a percentage of loans decreased during the year.

 

 40 

 

 

The following table sets forth the breakdown of the allowance for loan losses by loan category for the periods indicated. Management believes the allowance can be allocated only on an approximate basis. The allocation of the allowance to each category is not necessarily indicative of future losses and does not restrict the use of the allowance to absorb losses in any other category.

 

   At December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
   Amount   % of
Loans
to
Total
Loans
   Amount   % of
Loans
to
Total
Loans
   Amount   % of
Loans
to
Total
Loans
   Amount   % of
Loans
to
Total
Loans
   Amount   % of
Loans
to
Total
Loans
 
                                         
Commercial, financial, and agricultural  $1,144    19%  $2,004    17%  $1,823    15%  $2,439    12%  $2,918    11%
R/E Commercial & Farmland   7,994    46    8,823    48    8,393    50    9,157    50    14,226    50 
R/E Construction & Development   5,009    10    5,030    9    5,538    9    5,343    8    9,438    10 
Total Commercial   14,147    75    15,857    74    15,754    74    16,939    70    26,582    71 
R/E Residential   4,760    24    4,129    24    6,034    22    5,898    24    8,128    25 
Consumer Installment   1,574    1    1,171    2    589    4    756    6    446    4 
Purchased loan pools   581    -    -    -    -    -    -    -    -    - 
   $21,062    100%  $21,157    100%  $22,377    100%  $23,593    100%  $35,156    100%

 

The following table presents an analysis of our loan loss experience, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans, for the periods indicated:

 

   December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                     
Average amount of non-purchased loans outstanding  $2,161,726   $1,753,013   $1,478,816   $1,393,012   $1,348,557 
Balance of allowance for loan losses at beginning of period  $21,157   $22,377   $23,593   $35,156   $34,576 
                          
Charge-offs:                         
Commercial real estate, financial and agricultural   (4,427)   (5,447)   (7,350)   (31,382)   (25,475)
Residential real estate   (1,587)   (1,707)   (5,215)   (8,722)   (5,399)
Consumer Installment   (410)   (471)   (719)   (1,059)   (749)
Recoveries:                         
Commercial real estate, financial and agricultural   1,291    944    935    679    1,593 
Residential real estate   151    254    888    225    146 
Consumer Installment   137    486    298    245    123 
Net charge-offs   (4,845)   (5,941)   (11,163)   (40,014)   (29,761)
                          
Additions to allowance charged to operating expenses   4,750    4,721    9,947    28,451    30,341 
                          
Balance of allowance for loan losses at end of period  $21,062   $21,157   $22,377   $23,593   $35,156 
                          
Ratio of net loan charge-offs to average non-purchased loans   0.22%   0.34%   0.75%   2.87%   2.21%

 

 41 

 

 

NONPERFORMING LOANS

 

A loan is placed on non-accrual status when, in management’s judgment, the collection of the interest income appears doubtful. Interest receivable that has been accrued in prior years and is subsequently determined to have doubtful collectability is charged to the allowance for loan losses. Interest on loans that are classified as non-accrual is recognized when received. Past due loans are placed on non-accrual status when principal or interest is past due 90 days or more. In some cases, where borrowers are experiencing financial difficulties, loans may be restructured to provide terms significantly different from the original contractual terms. The following table presents an analysis of loans accounted for on a non-accrual basis, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans.

 

   December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                     
Commercial, financial & agricultural  $1,302   $1,672   $4,103   $4,138   $3,987 
Real estate – construction & development   1,812    3,774    3,971    9,281    15,020 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   7,019    8,141    8,566    11,962    35,385 
Real estate – residential   6,278    7,663    12,152    12,595    15,498 
Consumer installment loans   449    478    411    909    933 
Total  $16,860   $21,728   $29,203   $38,885   $70,823 
Loans contractually past due ninety days or more as to interest or principal payments and still accruing   -    1    -    -    - 

 

The following table presents an analysis of purchased, non-covered loans accounted for on a non-accrual basis.

 

   December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                     
Commercial, financial & agricultural  $1,064   $175   $11   $-   $- 
Real estate – construction & development   1,106    1,119    325    -    - 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   4,920    10,242    1,653    -    - 
Real estate – residential   6,168    6,644    4,658    -    - 
Consumer installment loans   72    69    12    -    - 
Total  $13,330   $18,249   $6,659   $-   $- 

 

The following table presents an analysis of covered loans accounted for on a non-accrual basis.

 

   December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013   2012   2011 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                     
Commercial, financial & agricultural  $2,803   $8,541   $7,257   $10,765   $11,952 
Real estate – construction & development   1,701    7,601    14,781    20,027    30,977 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   5,034    12,584    33,495    55,946    75,458 
Real estate – residential   3,663    6,595    13,278    28,672    41,139 
Consumer installment loans   37    91    341    302    473 
Total  $13,238   $35,412   $69,152   $115,712   $159,999 

 

 42 

 

 

Troubled Debt Restructurings

 

The restructuring of a loan is considered a “troubled debt restructuring” if both (i) the borrower is experiencing financial difficulties and (ii) the Company has granted a concession.

 

As of December 31, 2015 and 2014, the Company had a balance of $16.4 million and $15.3 million, respectively, in troubled debt restructurings, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans. The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings by loan class, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans, classified separately as accrual and non-accrual at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   4   $240    10   $110 
Real estate – construction & development   11    792    3    63 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   16    5,766    3    596 
Real estate – residential   51    7,574    20    1,123 
Consumer installment   12    46    23    94 
Total   94   $14,418    59   $1,986 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   6   $290    2   $13 
Real estate – construction & development   9    679    5    228 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   19    6,477    3    724 
Real estate – residential   47    5,258    11    1,485 
Consumer installment   11    55    11    73 
Total   92   $12,759    32   $2,523 

 

The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings by loan class, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans, classified separately as those currently paying under restructured terms and those that have defaulted (defined as 30 days past due) under restructured terms at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Loans Currently Paying
Under Restructured Terms
   Loans that have Defaulted
Under Restructured Terms
 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   11   $314    3   $37 
Real estate – construction & development   10    771    4    83 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   16    5,739    3    624 
Real estate – residential   49    7,086    22    1,610 
Consumer installment   20    75    15    65 
Total   106   $13,985    47   $2,419 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Loans Currently Paying
Under Restructured Terms
   Loans that have Defaulted
Under Restructured Terms
 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   7   $67    1   $236 
Real estate – construction & development   9    679    5    228 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   19    6,477    3    724 
Real estate – residential   45    5,036    13    1,707 
Consumer installment   14    67    8    61 
Total   94   $12,326    30   $2,956 

 

 43 

 

 

The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans, by types of concessions made, classified separately as accrual and non-accrual at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Type of Concession:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Forbearance of Interest   10   $1,891    8   $247 
Forgiveness of Principal   2    1,241    1    357 
Forbearance of Principal   6    2,798    8    158 
Rate Reduction Only   15    1,869    2    226 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Interest   39    2,504    23    383 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Principal   12    3,316    15    256 
Rate Reduction, Forgiveness of Interest   9    795    2    359 
Rate Reduction, Forgiveness of Principal   1    4    -    - 
Total   94   $14,418    59   $1,986 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Type of Concession:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Forbearance of Interest   10   $1,917    4   $270 
Forgiveness of Principal   5    2,394    -    - 
Forbearance of Principal   6    165    -    - 
Rate Reduction Only   16    3,677    4    477 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Interest   31    2,160    21    1,738 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Principal   19    1,981    2    13 
Rate Reduction, Forgiveness of Interest   4    460    -    - 
Rate Reduction, Forgiveness of Principal   1    5    1    25 
Total   92   $12,759    32   $2,523 

 

The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings, excluding purchased non-covered and covered loans, by collateral types, classified separately as accrual and non-accrual at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Collateral type:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Warehouse   4   $608    1   $198 
Raw Land   6    165    3    62 
Apartment   1    1,314    -    - 
Hotel & Motel   3    1,882    -    - 
Office   3    499    -    - 
Retail, including Strip Centers   3    1,335    1    42 
1-4 Family Residential   58    8,329    22    1,139 
Church   -    -    1    357 
Automobile/Equipment/CD   15    61    30    184 
Unsecured   1    225    1    4 
Total   94   $14,418    59   $1,986 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Collateral type:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Warehouse   6   $933    -   $- 
Raw Land   11    1,046    6    292 
Hotel & Motel   3    2,041    -    - 
Office   4    1,634    -    - 
Retail, including Strip Centers   4    1,203    2    660 
1-4 Family Residential   47    5,203    12    1,501 
Church   1    361    -    - 
Automobile/Equipment/CD   14    97    12    70 
Unsecured   2    241    -    - 
Total   92   $12,759    32   $2,523 

 

 44 

 

 

As of December 31, 2015 and 2014, the Company had a balance of $10.0 million and $1.2 million, respectively, in troubled debt restructurings included in purchased non-covered loans. The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings by loan class of purchased non-covered loans, classified separately as accrual and non-accrual at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   1   $2    2   $21 
Real estate – construction & development   1    363    3    42 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   14    6,214    3    412 
Real estate – residential   13    2,789    4    180 
Consumer installment   2    5    2    3 
Total   31   $9,373    14   $658 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   -   $-    -   $- 
Real estate – construction & development   1    317    -    - 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   1    346    -    - 
Real estate – residential   6    547    1    25 
Consumer installment   1    2    -    - 
Total   9   $1,212    1   $25 

 

The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings by loan class of purchased non-covered loans, classified separately as those currently paying under restructured terms and those that have defaulted (defined as 30 days past due) under restructured terms at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

As of December 31, 2015  Loans Currently Paying
Under Restructured Terms
   Loans that have Defaulted
Under Restructured Terms
 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   3   $23    -   $- 
Real estate – construction & development   2    374    2    30 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   15    6,570    2    57 
Real estate – residential   9    2,086    8    883 
Consumer installment   3    7    1    1 
Total   32   $9,060    13   $971 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Loans Currently Paying
Under Restructured Terms
   Loans that have Defaulted
Under Restructured Terms
 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   -   $-    -   $- 
Real estate – construction & development   -    -    1    317 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   1    346    -    - 
Real estate – residential   5    480    2    92 
Consumer installment   -    -    1    2 
Total   6   $826    4   $411 

 

 45 

 

 

The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings included in purchased non-covered loans, by types of concessions made, classified separately as accrual and non-accrual at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Type of Concession:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Forbearance of Interest   4   $1,465    2   $87 
Forbearance of Principal   2    574    -    - 
Payment Modification Only   2    892    -    - 
Forbearance of Principal, extended amortization   1    86    1    355 
Rate Reduction Only   8    4,054    2    77 
Rate Reduction, Forgiveness of Interest   2    152    -    - 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Interest   8    1,011    8    118 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Principal   4    1,139    1    21 
Total   31   $9,373    14   $658 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Type of Concession:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Forbearance of Interest   2   $69    -   $- 
Payment Modification Only   1    346    -    - 
Rate Reduction Only   2    373    1    25 
Rate Reduction, Forgiveness of Interest   2    155    -    - 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Interest   1    231    -    - 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Principal   1    38    -    - 
Total   9   $1,212    1   $25 

 

The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings included in purchased non-covered loans, by collateral types, classified separately as accrual and non-accrual at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Collateral type:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Warehouse   3   $1,722    -   $- 
Raw Land   -    -    4    63 
Hotel & Motel   1    158    -    - 
Retail, including Strip Centers   5    3,421    -    - 
Office   2    530    -    - 
1-4 Family Residential   17    3,535    6    571 
Automobile/Equipment/Inventory   3    7    4    24 
Total   31   $9,373    14   $658 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Collateral type:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Warehouse   1   $346    -   $- 
Raw Land   2    373    -    - 
1-4 Family Residential   5    491    1    25 
Automobile/Equipment/Inventory   1    2    -    - 
Total   9   $1,212    1   $25 

 

 46 

 

 

As of December 31, 2015 and 2014, the Company had a balance of $15.5 million and $24.6 million, respectively, in troubled debt restructurings included in covered loans. The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings by loan class of covered loans, classified separately as accrual and non-accrual at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   -   $-    2   $1 
Real estate – construction & development   4    779    -    - 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   4    1,967    3    1,067 
Real estate – residential   97    10,529    26    1,116 
Consumer installment   2    8    -    - 
Total   107   $13,283    31   $2,184 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   2   $40    2   $- 
Real estate – construction & development   4    3,037    2    29 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   14    8,079    5    1,082 
Real estate – residential   96    11,460    8    831 
Consumer installment   1    3    -    - 
Total   117   $22,619    17   $1,942 

 

The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings by loan class of covered loans, classified separately as those currently paying under restructured terms and those that have defaulted (defined as 30 days past due) under restructured terms at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Loans Currently Paying
Under Restructured Terms
   Loans that have Defaulted
Under Restructured Terms
 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   2   $-    -   $- 
Real estate – construction & development   4    779    -    - 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   5    2,890    2    144 
Real estate – residential   95    9,057    28    2,589 
Consumer installment   2    8    -    - 
Total   108   $12,734    30   $2,733 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Loans Currently Paying
Under Restructured Terms
   Loans that have Defaulted
Under Restructured Terms
 
Loan class:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Commercial, financial & agricultural   4   $40    -   $- 
Real estate – construction & development   4    3,037    2    29 
Real estate – commercial & farmland   18    9,082    1    79 
Real estate – residential   79    9,897    25    2,394 
Consumer installment   1    3    -    - 
Total   106   $22,059    28   $2,502 

 

 47 

 

 

The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings included in covered loans, by types of concessions made, classified separately as accrual and non-accrual at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Type of Concession:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Forbearance of Interest   5   $1,347    4   $88 
Forbearance of Principal   -    -    2    4 
Rate Reduction Only   84    10,270    7    744 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Interest   8    564    16    422 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Principal   7    708    2    926 
Rate Reduction, Forgiveness of Interest   3    394    -    - 
Total   107   $13,283    31   $2,184 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Type of Concession:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Forbearance of Interest   3   $1,532    3   $88 
Forbearance of Principal   1    -    1    - 
Rate Reduction Only   97    17,360    7    1,626 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Interest   5    274    3    14 
Rate Reduction, Forbearance of Principal   8    3,052    3    214 
Rate Reduction, Forgiveness of Interest   3    401    -    - 
Total   117   $22,619    17   $1,942 

 

The following table presents the amount of troubled debt restructurings included in covered loans, by collateral types, classified separately as accrual and non-accrual at December 31, 2015 and 2014.

 

As of December 31, 2015  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Collateral type:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Raw Land   5   $1,321    -   $- 
Hotel & Motel   1    620    1    923 
Retail, including Strip Centers   2    537    1    6 
1-4 Family Residential   97    10,742    27    1,255 
Automobile/Equipment/Inventory   2    63    2    - 
Total   107   $13,283    31   $2,184 

 

As of December 31, 2014  Accruing Loans   Non-Accruing Loans 
Collateral type:  #   Balance
(in thousands)
   #   Balance
(in thousands)
 
Warehouse   2   $1,510    1   $79 
Raw Land   3    411    1    14 
Hotel & Motel   5    4,395    -    - 
Office    1    473    2    858 
Retail, including Strip Centers   6    4,174    2    145 
1-4 Family Residential   98    11,616    9    846 
Automobile/Equipment/Inventory   1    3    2    - 
Unsecured   1    37    -    - 
Total   117   $22,619    17   $1,942 

 

 48 

 

  

LIQUIDITY AND INTEREST RATE SENSITIVITY

 

Liquidity management involves the matching of the cash flow requirements of customers, who may be either depositors desiring to withdraw funds or borrowers needing assurance that sufficient funds will be available to meet their credit needs, and the ability of our Company to meet those needs. We seek to meet liquidity requirements primarily through management of short-term investments (principally interest-bearing deposits in banks) and monthly amortizing loans. Another source of liquidity is the repayment of maturing single payment loans. In addition, our Company maintains relationships with correspondent banks, including the FHLB and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, which could provide funds on short notice, if needed.

 

A principal objective of our asset/liability management strategy is to minimize our exposure to changes in interest rates by matching the maturity and repricing horizons of interest-earning assets and interest-bearing liabilities. This strategy is overseen in part through the direction of our Asset and Liability Committee (the “ALCO Committee”) which establishes policies and monitors results to control interest rate sensitivity.

 

As part of our interest rate risk management policy, the ALCO Committee examines the extent to which its assets and liabilities are “interest rate sensitive” and monitors its interest rate-sensitivity “gap.” An asset or liability is considered to be interest rate sensitive if it will reprice or mature within the time period analyzed, usually one year or less. The interest rate-sensitivity gap is the difference between the interest-earning assets and interest-bearing liabilities scheduled to mature or reprice within such time period. A gap is considered positive when the amount of interest rate-sensitive assets exceeds the amount of interest rate-sensitive liabilities. A gap is considered negative when the amount of interest rate-sensitive liabilities exceeds the interest rate-sensitive assets. During a period of rising interest rates, a negative gap would tend to adversely affect net interest income, while a positive gap would tend to result in an increase in net interest income. During a period of falling interest rates, a negative gap would tend to result in an increase in net interest income, while a positive gap would tend to adversely affect net interest income. If our assets and liabilities were equally flexible and moved concurrently, the impact of any increase or decrease in interest rates on net interest income would be minimal.

 

A simple interest rate “gap” analysis by itself may not be an accurate indicator of how net interest income will be affected by changes in interest rates. Accordingly, the ALCO Committee also evaluates how the repayment of particular assets and liabilities is impacted by changes in interest rates. Income associated with interest-earning assets and costs associated with interest-bearing liabilities may not be affected uniformly by changes in interest rates. In addition, the magnitude and duration of changes in interest rates may have a significant impact on net interest income. For example, although certain assets and liabilities may have similar maturities or periods of repricing, they may not react identically to changes in market interest rates. Interest rates on certain types of assets and liabilities fluctuate in advance of changes in general market interest rates, while interest rates on other types may lag behind changes in general market rates. In addition, certain assets, such as adjustable rate mortgage loans, have features (generally referred to as “interest rate caps”) which limit changes in interest rates on a short-term basis and over the life of the asset. In the event of a change in interest rates, prepayment and early withdrawal levels also could deviate significantly from those assumed in calculating the interest rate gap. The ability of many borrowers to service their debts also may decrease in the event of an interest rate increase.

 

We manage the mix of asset and liability maturities in an effort to control the effects of changes in the general level of interest rates on net interest income. Except for its effect on the general level of interest rates, inflation does not have a material impact on the balance sheet due to the rate variability and short-term maturities of its earning assets. In particular, approximately 31.1% of earning assets mature or reprice within one year or less. Mortgage loans, generally our loan with the longest maturity, are usually made with five to fifteen year maturities, but with either a variable interest rate or a fixed rate with an adjustment between origination date and maturity date.

  

 49 

 

  

The following table sets forth the distribution of the repricing of our interest-earning assets and interest-bearing liabilities as of December 31, 2015, the interest rate sensitivity gap (i.e., interest rate sensitive assets minus interest rate sensitive liabilities), the cumulative interest rate sensitivity gap, the interest rate sensitivity gap ratio (i.e., interest rate sensitive assets divided by interest rate sensitive liabilities) and the cumulative interest rate sensitivity gap ratio. The table also sets forth the time periods in which earning assets and liabilities will mature or may reprice in accordance with their contractual terms. However, the table does not necessarily indicate the impact of general interest rate movements on the net interest margin since the repricing of various categories of assets and liabilities is subject to competitive pressures and the needs of our customers. In addition, various assets and liabilities indicated as repricing within the same period may in fact reprice at different times within such period and at different rates.

 

   At December 31, 2015 
   Maturing or Repricing Within 
   Zero to
Three
Months
   Three
Months to
One Year
   One to
Five
Years
   Over
Five
Years
   Total 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                     
Interest-earning assets:                         
Short-term assets  $272,045   $-   $-   $-   $272,045 
Investment securities   3,248    2,173    54,966    722,798    783,185 
Mortgage loans held for sale   111,182    -    -    -    111,182 
Loans   664,754    199,685    1,012,992    529,446    2,406,877 
Purchased, non-covered loans   146,040    93,711    307,254    224,549    771,554 
Purchased, non-covered loan pools   326    13,619    219,805    359,213    592,963 
Covered loans   46,433    23,093    53,624    14,379    137,529 
    1,244,028    332,281    1,648,641    1,850,385    5,075,335 
                          
Interest-bearing liabilities:                         
Interest-bearing demand deposits   2,468,049    -    -    -    2,468,049 
Savings   242,979    -    -    -    242,979 
Time deposits   203,550    469,558    160,822    4,475    838,405 
Short-term borrowings   63,585    15,000    24,000    -    102,585 
Trust preferred securities   -    32,730    -    37,144    69,874 
    2,978,163    517,288    184,822    41,619    3,721,892 
                          
Interest rate sensitivity gap  $(1,734,135)  $(185,007)  $1,463,819   $1,808,766   $1,353,443 
                          
Cumulative interest rate sensitivity gap  $(1,734,135)  $(1,919,142)  $(455,323)  $1,353,443      
                          
Interest rate sensitivity gap ratio   0.42    0.64    8.92    44.46      
                          
Cumulative interest rate sensitivity gap ratio   0.42    0.45    0.88    1.36      

 

INVESTMENT PORTFOLIO

 

Following is a summary of the carrying value of investment securities available for sale as of the end of each reported period:

 

   December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
U.S. Government sponsored agencies  $14,890   $14,678   $13,926 
State, county and municipal securities   161,316    141,375    112,754 
Corporate debt securities   6,017    11,040    10,325 
Collateralized debt obligations   -    -    1,480 
Mortgage-backed securities   600,962    374,712    347,750 
   $783,185   $541,805   $486,235 

 

 50 

 

  

The amounts of securities available for sale in each category as of December 31, 2015 are shown in the following table according to contractual maturity classifications: (i) one year or less, (ii) after one year through five years, (iii) after five years through ten years and (iv) after ten years.

 

   U.S. Government
Sponsored Agencies
   State, County and
Municipal
   Corporate debt   Mortgage-backed 
   Amount   Yield(1)   Amount   Yield(1)(2)   Amount   Yield(1)   Amount   Yield (1) 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
One year or less  $-    -%  $5,421    2.56%  $-    4.36%  $-    -%
After one year through five years   4,958    1.50    45,490    2.89    2,633    5.69    887    2.88 
After five years through ten years   9,932    2.02    53,442    3.02    494    3.26    62,886    2.28 
After ten years   -    -    56,963    2.80    2,890    4.40    537,189    2.42 
   $14,890    1.85%  $161,316    2.89%  $6,017    4.87%  $600,962    2.41%

 

(1)Yields were computed using coupon interest, adding discount accretion or subtracting premium amortization, as appropriate, on a ratable basis over the life of each security. The weighted average yield for each maturity range was computed using the acquisition price of each security in that range.
(2)Yields on securities of state and political subdivisions are stated on a taxable-equivalent basis, using a tax rate of 35%.

 

The investment portfolio consists of securities which are classified as available for sale and recorded at fair value with unrealized gains and losses excluded from earnings and reported in accumulated other comprehensive income, net of the related deferred tax effect.

 

The amortization of premiums and accretion of discounts are recognized in interest income using methods approximating the interest method over the life of the securities. Realized gains and losses, determined on the basis of the cost of specific securities sold, are included in earnings on the trade date. Declines in the fair value of securities below their cost that are deemed to be other-than-temporary are reflected in earnings as realized losses.

 

The Company’s methodology for determining whether other-than-temporary impairment losses exist include management considering (i) the length of time and the extent to which the fair value has been less than cost, (ii) the financial condition and near-term prospects of the issuer and (iii) the intent and ability of the Company to retain its investment in the issuer for a period of time sufficient to allow for any anticipated recovery in fair value.

 

Management evaluates securities for other-than-temporary impairment at least on a quarterly basis, and more frequently when economic or market concerns warrant such evaluation. Substantially all of the unrealized losses on debt securities are related to changes in interest rates and do not affect the expected cash flows of the issuer or underlying collateral. All unrealized losses are considered temporary because each security carries an acceptable investment grade, the Company has the intent and ability to hold such securities until maturity and it is more likely than not that the Company will not be required to sell these securities prior to recovery or maturity. The Company’s investments in subordinated debt include investments in regional and super-regional banks on which the Company conducts regular analysis through review of financial information or credit ratings. Investments in preferred securities are also concentrated in the preferred obligations of regional and super-regional banks through non-pooled investment structures. The Company did not hold any investments in “pooled” trust preferred securities at December 31, 2015.  

 

DEPOSITS

 

Average amount of various deposit classes and the average rates paid thereon are presented below:

 

   Year Ended December 31, 
   2015   2014 
   Amount   Rate   Amount   Rate 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
                 
Noninterest-bearing demand  $1,227,682    0.00%  $751,874    0.00%
NOW   877,949    0.17    724,461    0.18 
Money Market   1,074,349    0.30    805,601    0.37 
Savings   209,206    0.08    150,266    0.11 
Time   810,344    0.61    768,420    0.66 
Total deposits  $4,199,530    0.23%  $3,200,622    0.30%

 

We have a large, stable base of time deposits with little or no dependence on what we consider volatile deposits. Volatile deposits, in management’s opinion, are those deposit accounts that are overly rate sensitive and apt to move if our rate offerings are not at or near the top of the market. Generally speaking, these are brokered deposits or time deposits in amount greater than $100,000.

 

 51 

 

  

The amounts of time certificates of deposit issued in amounts of $100,000 or more as of December 31, 2015, are shown below by category, which is based on time remaining until maturity of (i) three months or less, (ii) over three through twelve months and (iii) greater than one year.

 

   (Dollars in
Thousands)
 
Three months or less  $92,939 
Three months to one year   225,135 
One year or greater   79,065 
Total  $397,139 

 

OFF-BALANCE SHEET ARRANGEMENTS AND CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS

 

In the ordinary course of business, our Bank has granted commitments to extend credit to approved customers. Generally, these commitments to extend credit have been granted on a temporary basis for seasonal or inventory requirements and have been approved within the Bank’s credit guidelines. Our Bank has also granted commitments to approved customers for financial standby letters of credit. These commitments are recorded in the financial statements when funds are disbursed or the financial instruments become payable. The Bank uses the same credit policies for these off-balance sheet commitments as it does for financial instruments that are recorded in the consolidated financial statements. Commitments generally have fixed expiration dates or other termination clauses and may require payment of a fee. Since many of the commitment amounts expire without being drawn upon, the total commitment amounts do not necessarily represent future cash requirements.

 

The following is a summary of the commitments outstanding at December 31, 2015 and 2014:

 

   December 31, 
   2015   2014 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
Commitments to extend credit  $548,898   $293,517 
Unused lines of credit   52,798    49,567 
Financial standby letters of credit   14,712    9,683 
Mortgage interest rate lock commitments   77,710    38,868 
   $694,118   $391,635 

 

 The following table summarizes short-term borrowings for the periods indicated:

 

   Years Ended December 31, 
   2015   2014   2013 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
   Average
Balance
   Average
Rate
   Average
Balance
   Average
Rate
   Average
Balance
   Average
Rate
 
Federal funds purchased and securities sold under agreement to repurchase  $50,988    0.34%  $47,136    0.35%  $26,908    0.54%

 

   Total
Balance
      Total
Balance
      Total
Balance
    
Total maximum short-term borrowings outstanding at any month-end during the year   $68,300       $73,310       $83,516     

 

In addition, the Company had a cash flow hedge that matures September 15, 2020 with a notional amount of $37.1 million at December 31, 2015 and 2014, for the purpose of converting the variable rate on the junior subordinated debentures to a fixed rate of 4.11%. The interest rate swap, which is classified as a cash flow hedge, is indexed to LIBOR.

 

 52 

 

  

The following table sets forth certain information about contractual cash obligations as of December 31, 2015.

 

   Payments Due After December 31, 2015 
   Total   1 Year
Or Less
   1-3
Years
   4-5
Years
   >5
Years
 
   (Dollars in Thousands) 
Time certificates of deposit  $838,406   $673,108   $130,527   $30,296   $4,475 
Deposits without a stated maturity   4,045,334    4,045,334    -    -    - 
Repurchase agreements with customers   63,585    63,585    -    -    - 
Operating lease obligations   14,624    3,000    5,745    4,370    1,509 
Other borrowings   39,000    39,000    -    -    - 
Subordinated debentures   94,335    -    -    -    94,335 
Total contractual cash obligations  $5,095,284   $4,824,027   $136,272   $34,666   $100,319 

 

Our operating leases represent short-term obligations, normally with maturities of less than three years. Many of the operating leases have thirty-day cancellation provisions. The total contractual obligations for operating leases do not require a material amount of our cash funds.

 

At December 31, 2015, estimated costs to complete construction projects in progress and other binding commitments for capital expenditures were less than $1.5 million.

 

CAPITAL ADEQUACY

 

Capital Purchase Program

 

On November 21, 2008, the Company elected to participate in the CPP established by the EESA. Accordingly, on such date, the Company issued and sold to the Treasury, for an aggregate cash purchase price of $52 million, (i) 52,000 Preferred Shares having a liquidation preference of $1,000 per share, and (ii) a ten-year Warrant to purchase up to 679,443 shares of Common Stock, at an exercise price of $11.48 per share. The issuance and sale of these securities was a private placement exempt from registration pursuant to Section 4(2) of the Securities Act. On June 14, 2012, the Preferred Shares were sold by the Treasury through a registered public offering. On August 22, 2012, the Company repurchased the Warrant from the Treasury for $2.67 million, and in December 2012, the Company repurchased 24,000 of the outstanding Preferred Shares. In March 2014, the Company redeemed the remaining 28,000 outstanding Preferred Shares.

 

Capital Regulations

 

The capital resources of the Company are monitored on a periodic basis by state and federal regulatory authorities. During 2015, the Company’s capital increased $148.7 million, primarily due to the issuance of Common Stock of $114.9 million and net income available to common shareholders of $40.8 million, partially offset by the cash dividends paid on common shares of $6.4 million. Other capital related transactions, such as other comprehensive income, Common Stock issuances through the exercise of stock options and issuances of shares of restricted stock, account for only a small change in the capital of the Company. During 2014, the Company’s capital increased $49.3 million, primarily due to the issuance of Common Stock of $34.5 million related to the Coastal acquisition, net income available to common shareholders of $38.4 million and other comprehensive income of $6.4 million, partially offset by the redemption of preferred stock of $28.0 million. Other capital related transactions, such as Common Stock issuances through the exercise of stock options and issuances of shares of restricted stock, account for only a small change in the capital of the Company.

 

In accordance with risk capital guidelines issued by the Federal Reserve, we are required to maintain a minimum standard of total capital to risk-weighted assets of 8%. Additionally, all member banks must maintain “core” or “Tier 1” capital of at least 4% of total assets (“leverage ratio”). Member banks operating at or near the 4% capital level are expected to have well-diversified risks, including no undue interest rate risk exposure, excellent control systems, good earnings, high asset quality and well managed on- and off-balance sheet activities, and, in general, be considered strong banking organizations with a composite 1 rating under the CAMEL rating system of banks. For all but the most highly rated banks meeting the above conditions, the minimum leverage ratio is to be 4% plus an additional 1% to 2%.