Regional Bank Susquehanna Lifts Payout, Tops $10 Mark

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Susquehanna Bancshares ( SUSQ ) keeps moving in the right direction with its dividend.

When the bank holding company raised its quarterly dividend last month, that represented the fourth time it had hiked its payout in 16 months.

The most recent quarterly dividend, paid out on Aug. 20, was 6 cents a share. That's up from 5 cents in the prior period -- and also up from just 1 cent in 2011's first quarter.

Susquehanna Bancshares is the Lititz, Pa.-based holding company for Susquehanna Bank, a regional bank with branches in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia. It focuses on retail banking, commercial banking and financial services such as wealth management.

Over the past three quarters, Susquehanna has returned to revenue growth, scoring gains of 21%, 11% and 17% after posting quarterly declines for eight straight periods. Profit gains also have been strong lately, accelerating to 133% EPS growth last quarter from increases of 75% and 50%.

The company has gotten a lift from acquisitions, such as its deal last year to buy Tower Bancorp. But it signaled at least a pause in its recent buying during an earnings conference call last month.

"I am more concerned right now about making sure we maximize the franchise we have, which is 261 branches and $18 billion in assets ... with some great opportunities in a lot of markets," CEO William J. Reuter told analysts during the call. "I'm more concerned about doing that than I am about buying somebody else at this point in time."

Other strengths for Susquehanna include increasing ownership by U.S. mutual and hedge funds, a highly ranked industry group (Northeast banks) and a 3-Year EPS Stability Factor of 5, near the best-possible grade of zero. The EPS Stability Factor can help indicate whether or not a company will be able to keep paying its dividend.

In terms of its stock chart, Susquehanna has been finding support at its 10-week moving average for several weeks. And for a couple of months, it's been holding above $10, which can serve as a key threshold for some institutional investors.



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Personal Finance , Investing Ideas

Referenced Stocks: SUSQ

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