FNSC sees inexplicable rise in stock price

Despite being counted among South Carolina’s most troubled financial service companies, First National Bancshares has seen its stock price rise precipitously – relatively speaking – over the past few days.

Monday, Spartanburg-based First National saw its stock jump 65 cents, or 84 percent, to $1.43 in extremely heavy trading. Nearly 500,000 shares traded hands, compared to average daily volume of less than 14,000.

Last Friday, First National, the parent of First National Bank of the South, was trading for less than 60 cents a share before it closed at 78 cents. It then opened Monday at 89 cents and continued upward the rest of the day.

It’s unclear what’s been driving the company’s stock price upward. There have been no recent filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, no press releases or news stories about First National and no indication on the company’s Yahoo! message board that there’s been a change in fortune for the struggling bank company.

Last month First National announced it had entered into a loan modification and settlement agreement with Nexity Bank regarding nearly $10 million First National owes Nexity.

According to information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, First National agreed on March 26, 2010, to the extension of its loan modification and settlement agreement with Birmingham, Ala.-based Nexity.

Although the outstanding principal balance on First National’s loan from Nexity is more than $9.6 million, the amended settlement agreement extends First National’s ability to pay a discounted sum of $3.5 million, plus accumulated 2010 interest in full satisfaction of the loan.

According to information released at that time, both institutions were awaiting final regulatory approval of their amended settlement agreement. Perhaps anticipation of that approval is what is driving First National’s stock price up. Or maybe an investor has been lined up to give the company a much-needed transfusion of cash.

No matter what, the company has a long way to go before it’s out of trouble. It lost $43.7 million in 2009 and $44.8 million in 2008.

Subsidiary First National Bank of the South entered into a consent order with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency last April which, among other things, contained a requirement that it achieve and maintain minimum capital requirements that exceed the minimum regulatory capital ratios for “well capitalized” banks by Aug. 25, 2009.

As of Nov. 25, 2009, the bank was notified by the OCC that it was significantly undercapitalized.

First National’s independent registered public accounting firm stated in its March 9, 2010, report that the uncertainty raises substantial doubt about the company’s ability to “continue as a going concern.”

Of Facebook, nut jobs and Obama

Facebook, the social networking website that has grown exponentially over the past half decade, appears more and more to be an online repository for the mentally unbalanced.

Witness the page titled: “DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN”

Looking past the fact that Patrick Swayze’s last name is misspelled and Farrah Fawcett’s first name is misspelled, the obvious implication here is that the author is asking God to “take” President Obama, as in have him die.

Is it surprising that someone (anonymously, of course) would come up with a page like this? Hardly. What’s a bit more disconcerting is that as of this past weekend, more than 1.1 million people had clicked on the icon indicating that they “liked” the page.

Political discontent is an American tradition and Obama, along with Congress, has certainly stirred up considerable opposition with what many see as a sharp shift to the left.

Free speech is a critical element in any democratic form of government, but there appears to be an over-the-top element in American society that sees nothing wrong in wishing death on the duly elected leader of our nation, and it’s found an outlet in such media as Facebook, Twitter and through blogging.

This isn’t a characteristic limited to the right, either. Three years ago, when George W. Bush was in office, there likely would have been a similar page, though perhaps without the religious overtones, if Facebook had been as popular then.

For your reading pleasure, here are a few comments on the “Take Obama” page:

  • “Dear Lord, please bless the man or woman who created this page : )” (The smiley face is a nice touch. I’m sure the Lord appreciates it.)
  • “Dear Lord, Please let Obama have a long life so he can be reminded every day how big a failure he was as President. Oh wait, thats right, blood sucking vampires live forever. Amen” (Grammar is certainly a weak spot among the nut job crowd. We’ve got unnecessary capitalization, a missing apostrophe, a missing hyphen and a missing period.)
  • “come november I’M voting against the socialist [democratic regime] .vote republican for congress and senate , and tie this rotten traitor dictating son of a bitches hands to keep him from selling us out to his muslim friends, he’s done enough the way it is. I don’t know who turned him on , but it’s time to turn him off…” (Where to start on this one?)

Ah, such enlightened discourse. If only John Stuart Mill or Edmund Burke were still around to debate these deep thinkers.

Many Christian denominations espouse the belief that it’s necessary to pray for everyone, not just those you like or agree with. Even if you can’t find it in yourself to pray for those you disagree with, it hardly seems like the Christian thing to do to hope for the death of a political foe.