Thursday April 26, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Acquisitions and growth continue to pay off for Berkshire Bank’s shareholders.

The bank’s core earnings per share have increased 50 percent compared to the same time period last year, according to first-quarter results released on Wednesday by Berkshire Hills Bancorp, the financial institution’s holding company.

The increase was 45 cents in core earnings per share, up from 30 cents, during the first quarter of 2011. That means Berkshire’s shareholders have seen a 50 percent earnings increase on each share of stock they own over that 12-month time period, said the bank’s investor relations officer, David Gonci.

"That’s a very high number," Gonci said. "The current rate of increase in the core earnings per share in the industry is in the low single digits. So a 50 percent increase is very good for our shareholders."

The increase resulted from Berkshire’s ongoing business growth and last year’s acquisitions of the Rome, N.Y., Bancorp and Legacy Banks. It includes the per share impact of shares that were issued as merger consideration for those acquisitions.

"As our profitability increases, our capital grows and we have more resources to grow and serve more," Gonci said.

Earnings per share actually increased only one cent from the bank’s earnings during the fourth quarter of last year. But Berkshire’s core earnings per share during the fourth quarter had increased by 57 percent -- from 28 cents per share to 44 cents per share -- from the fourth quarter of 2010.

Core earnings per share are determined by dividing a bank’s total number of shares into its total earnings.

Berkshire recently acquired two other properties -- the Greenpark Mortgage Corp oration of Needham in March and the Connecticut Bank and Trust Company on April 20. Greenpark’s contribution also boosted Berkshire’s first quarter results, according to President and CEO Michael P. Daly.

"We look forward to additional revenue and earnings growth from both of these strategic initiatives," Daly said.

Berkshire now operates 68 branches in four states and has assets of $4.3 billion.

The bank’s net income fell from $8.4 million during the fourth quarter of 2011 to $5.8 million. That decrease is a result of non-core charges and one-time related expenses involved in the conversions of both Legacy and CBT, and an ongoing systems conversion, Berkshire spokeswoman Lori Gazzillo said. Berkshire’s net income, however, has increased $3 million from the $2.8 million registered during the first quarter of 2011.

Other first quarter highlights included annualized growth in revenue (10 percent), loans (11 percent), and deposits (11 percent).