The owner of Mount Pleasant-based Tidelands Bank reported a nearly $2 million first-quarter loss as it continued to set aside money to cover troubled loans that could sour.

On a per-share basis, the $1.99 million loss at Tidelands Bancshares Inc. was 49 cents. A year ago, the holding company had a first-quarter deficit of $858,691.

Tidelands said its latest loss was caused primarily by a $3.6 million contribution to its loan-loss reserve fund.

"Our bottom line financial performance continues to reflect the challenging operating environment that currently exists within our market area, along with the resulting increase in our loan loss provisions," said Robert E. Coffee Jr., chief executive officer.

"We believe that we are making solid progress in positioning Tidelands

Bank for strong performance once the local economy returns to a more normalized condition. We remain well-capitalized, and we are aggressively working to manage our asset quality while maintaining a strong liquidity position."

Coffee could not be reached Thursday to elaborate on his written remarks.

Loans and other assets that Tidelands had classified as delinquent or bad as of March 31 increased 8 percent to $30.5 million from Dec. 31. Nonperforming loans accounted for 4.48 percent of all loans for the 2010 first quarter, up slightly from 4.39 percent at the end of 2009.

The seven-branch coastal bank this week notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that it plans to offer 12.3 million shares of its common stock to investors, bringing the total number of shares outstanding to more than 16 million.

The sale would raise about $28 million, based on the company's recent stock price.

Tidelands is moving to add to its capital coffers and take other steps to strengthen its balance sheet under a "memorandum of understanding" it reached last year with federal and state bank regulators.

Shareholders cleared the way for the stock issue this month by voting to increase to 75 million from 10 million the number of shares the lender is authorized to sell. The company has not disclosed the date of the proposed offering.

Shares of Tidelands closed up about 4 percent Thursday at $2.30.

Reach John McDermott at 937-5572 or jmcdermott@postandcourier.com.