First Federal posts another quarterly profit

Hall

The parent of First Federal Bank reported its third straight quarterly profit Monday while beefing up its Grand Strand business and cracking into a new market in the Upstate.

North Charleston-based First Financial Holdings Inc. said it earned about $770,000, or 5 cents a share, for the period ended March 31 after subtracting dividend payments on its preferred stock. The company posted a $430,000 loss for the same quarter of 2011.

The latest results included a $2.1 million tax-related write-off stemming from First Federal’s recent conversion to a state-chartered commercial bank, ending its 78-year run as a savings and loan association.

“This has been yet another eventful and strategically successful quarter for First Financial,” said R. Wayne Hall, president and CEO of the holding company and the bank.

First Federal officials spent the weekend at six branches it took over after the close of business Friday, when the owner of Pawleys Island-based Plantation Federal Bank failed.

The offices were reopened on Monday as First Federal locations.

Friday’s transaction with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. included three Greenville branches that Plantation Federal’s owner ran as First Savers Bank. Hall has been itching to expand First Federal into that market, calling it “demographically attractive” part of the state.

On the coast, Plantation Federal had three offices, one each in Pawleys Island, Murrells Inlet and Myrtle Beach. First Federal has competing operations in all of those markets. No decision had been made Monday about any potential closings or consolidations, Hall said.

The Plantation Federal takeover went down less than a week after First Federal completed its purchase of Liberty Savings Bank’s deposits and branches on and around Hilton Head Island.

“We are excited about our expansion into Greenville ... and our enhanced presence in the Grand Strand and Hilton Head markets through these transactions,” Hall said. “We believe First Financial is well-positioned to produce continuing improved results and returns to our shareholders.”

First Financial shares fell 50 cents to $11.54 on Monday, down 4.15 percent.

Reach John P. McDermott at 937-5572.