On Feb 22, Zacks Investment Research upgraded
First Financial Holdings Inc.
) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).
Why the Upgrade?
First Financial has been witnessing rising earnings estimates on
the back of strong fourth-quarter 2012 results. Moreover, this
well-known integrated financial solutions provider delivered
positive earnings surprises in the last 4 quarters with an
average beat of 26.6%. The long-term expected earnings growth
rate for this stock is 7.5%
First Financial reported fourth-quarter results on Jan 24.
Earnings per share came in at 41 cents, surpassing the Zacks
Consensus Estimate of 31 cents by 32.3% and prior-quarter
earnings of 34 cents by 20.6%.
Earnings were primarily aided by solid top-line growth of 5.9%
and a 4.4% decrease in interest expense.
On Feb 20, First Financial entered into a merger agreement with
SCBT Financial Corporation
) to form a combined entity. Upon completion of the deal, the
combined company will have about $8.3 billion in total assets,
$6.9 billion in total deposits and $6.1 billion in total loans.
The agreement is anticipated to close in the third quarter of
2013, subject to certain customary conditions.
The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 increased 4.5% to $1.16 per
share as most of the estimates were revised higher over the last
30 days. For 2014, 2 of the 7 estimates were revised higher over
the same time frame, lifting the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 6.5%
to $1.14 per share.
Other Stocks to Consider
Besides First Financial, other stocks in the same sector with a
Zacks Rank #1 include
Riverview Bancorp Inc.
Center Bancorp Inc.
CENTER BANCORP (CNBC): Free Stock Analysis
FIRST FINL HLDG (FFCH): Free Stock Analysis
RIVERVIEW BANCP (RVSB): Free Stock Analysis
SCBT FINL CP (SCBT): Free Stock Analysis
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