First National ‘reassigns’ top lender


Embattled First National Bancshares of Spartanburg, SC, said Tuesday that chief lending officer David H. Zabriskie had “accepted a transfer of duties” to that of commercial banking officer.

First National is struggling to keep its head above water. The parent of First National Bank of the South lost $44.8 million last year and another $1.36 million during the first three months of 2009.

It’s yet to release its earnings report for the most recent quarter.

As of March 31, 2009, First National reported nonperforming assets of $73.9 million, compared to $25.6 million year earlier.

According to information First National filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year, Zabriskie has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry, including 15 years in commercial lending. He had also served as a bank examiner for the OCC and the OTS.

Zabriskie’s total compensation in 2008 was $199,577, according to information filed with the SEC. He earned $227,602 in 2007.

Zabriskie’s employment agreement was terminated in conjunction with his reassignment, the company announced.

Stock in First National closed Tuesday at 65 cents a share.

Losses spike for Tidelands


Tidelands Bancshares saw its losses spike sharply during the quarter ended June 30, jumping to $3.7 million from $231,000 during the same period in 2008.

The Mount Pleasant, SC-based parent of Tidelands Bank attributed the increase to credit provisions taken to fortify the balance sheet.

Provisions for loan losses rose to nearly $5.5 million during the three-month period, compared to $314,000 in 2008. Nonaccrual loans jumped to $11.6 million from $2.9 million.

Through the first six months of 2009, Tidelands lost nearly $4.6 million.

Shares of Tidelands are trading for $2.88.

First Reliance shows $1.2 million loss


First Reliance Bancshares reported a $1,154,614 loss for the quarter ended June 30, compared to a $683,421 gain the previous year.

Add in a $208,547 preferred stock dividend and the net loss available to shareholders for the quarter was $1.4 million for the Florence, SC-based parent of First Reliance Bank.

Officials attributed the loss to an increase in loan loss provisions. Provisions for loan losses for the three-month period were nearly $3.6 million, up from $645,794 in 2008.

First Reliance is currently trading for $2.75 a share, well off its 52-week high of $10.

Community Capital posts heavy loss


Community Capital Corp. of Greenwood, SC, reported it lost nearly $3 million during the quarter ended June 30.

The company posted a loss of $2,941,000, compared to net income of $427,000 during the same period in 2008.

Loan loss provisions rose to $5.8 million from $2.5 million a year earlier while nonperforming assets nearly doubled during the same period, to $34.4 million from $18.7 million, according to the information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

During the second quarter Community Capital said it incurred one-time expenses of $350,000 related equity-raising efforts, a $375,000 expense for the special FDIC assessment, and wrote down other real estate by $1.2 million.

The company also said it has eliminated fees paid to its bank and holding company boards of directors.

Community Capital closed Monday at $3.63 a share, just a penny off its 52-week low. The company has traded as high as $11.20 over the past year.

Shining light on fate of Japanese POWs


Another of the mysteries of World War II is becoming a little clearer: Records on up to 760,000 Japanese imprisoned in Soviet labor camps after the conflict have been found at a national archive in Moscow, casting new light on the obscure events that followed the war’s aftermath.

Japan has estimated that about 560,000 people were taken prisoner and 53,000 of them died after being taken to Siberia and other places to engage in railway construction and other work to supplement the lack of labor in the Soviet Union after the war, but the latest findings could lead to a review of the figures, according to Kyodo News.

Some estimates of the number of Japanese POWs who died while under Soviet watch are much greater.  

The fate of the Japanese POWs who ended up in Siberia is particularly ironic given that the Soviet Union didn’t declare war on Japan until Aug. 8, 1945, two days after the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and shortly before the end of the the Second World War.

The last major group of Japanese POWs wasn’t repatriated until late 1956, according to Wikipedia.

Russia has largely agreed to provide the newly found documents to the Japanese government, and the documents will start arriving as early as this year.

First Financial upgraded, stock rises


First Financial Holdings of Charleston, SC, was upgraded Monday by research firm BB&T Capital Markets to “buy” from “hold.”

That comes just days after the company reported a big boost in earnings, thanks to an after-tax gain of $28.9 million from the company’s purchase of the former Cape Fear Bank in Wilmington, NC, from the FDIC earlier this year.

The one-time gain helped First Financial earn $34 million during the three months ended June 30. That compares to a $5.9 million profit a year earlier.

Without the one-time gain, First Financial would have netted about $5.2 million during the most recent three months, or 12 percent less than in 2008.

Shares of First Financial rose $1.01 Monday, or more than 9 percent, to $12.17.

The latest quarter’s results also included a $1 million special assessment that First Financial paid during the quarter to help replenish the FDIC fund. Every US bank is being required to chip in based on size, according to The Charleston Post and Courier.

Also included was an $813,000 dividend payment on preferred stock the company sold last year to the US Treasury for $65 million, The Post and Courier added.

Gullah-Geechee group holding meetings


The Gullah-Geechee Heritage Corridor Commission, which is working to protect the Gullah culture along the Southeast coast, is holding public meetings in South Carolina this week.

The commission will meet Monday at the Bluffton branch of the Beaufort County Library, Tuesday at St. Stephen AME Church in Hardeeville and Wednesday at the Bethel Baptist Church in Pineland. The Monday meeting is at 5:30 p.m. while the Tuesday and Wednesday meetings are at 7 p.m.

The panel wants public comment on efforts to protect the culture of the descendants of sea island slaves — a culture is known as Geechee in Florida and Georgia and known as Gullah in the Carolinas.

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Last veteran of WWI trenches dies


Harry Patch, the last World War I veteran to fight in the trenches of the Western Front, has died at age 111.

Patch fought in and was wounded at the Battle of Passchendale in Ypres, Belgium, in which more than half a million men perished. 

He served in the trenches as a private with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry from June to September in 1917 when he was seriously injured by a shell explosion.

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SCBT Financial earnings slip sharply


Columbia, SC-based SCBT Financial Corp. earned $1.5 million during the quarter ended June 30, down from $6.1 million during the same period in 2008.

SCBT’s bottom line suffered from a $3.9 million dividend related to repayment of a $64.8 million federal bailout loan. The company also had to cover a $1.3 million charge for a special assessment from the FDIC and a $1.2 million increase in real estate and loan expenses.

Noninterest income fell to $7.8 million from $8.1 million a year earlier while net interest income rose to $26 million from $23.6 million in the second quarter of last year, according to The Charlotte Business Journal.

Total nonperforming assets jumped to $39.1 million for the most recent three months, from $8.7 million a year earlier, according to company information.

SCBT shares closed Friday at $22.68, down 25 cents.

Georgia hit with more bank failures


Another Friday, another slew of Georgia banks seized by regulators.

Security Bank of Jones County in Gray, Ga.; Security Bank of Houston County, Perry; Security Bank of Bibb County, Macon; Security Bank of North Metro, Woodstock; Security Bank of North Fulton, Alpharetta; and Security Bank of Gwinnett County, Suwanee, were all seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

While the six were subsidiaries of a single company, Security Bank of Macon, which combined was Georgia’s fourth-largest lender, they represent the latest in the wave of bank failures to hit the Peach State.

Since the beginning of last year, some 20 Georgia banks have failed, more than any other state. Most of the Georgia failures have involved banks in the Atlanta area, where the collapse of the real estate market brought economic dislocation.

Security Bank, which operated 20 branches in middle and north Georgia, will be taken over by three veteran Georgia bankers led by Joe Evans, former chief executive of Flag Financial Corp., The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.