By Northwest Bank—
Warren, Pennsylvania —Northwest Bancshares, Inc., (the “Company”), (NasdaqGS: NWBI) announced net income for the quarter ended December 31, 2020 of $35.1 million, or $0.28 per diluted share. This represents an increase of $9.5 million, or 37.0%, compared to the same quarter last year when net income was $25.6 million, or $0.24 per diluted share. The annualized returns on average shareholders’ equity and average assets for the quarter ended December 31, 2020 were 9.00% and 1.01% compared to 7.52% and 0.97% for the same quarter last year.
The Company also announced that its Board of Directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.19 per share payable on February 15, 2021 to shareholders of record as of February 4, 2021. This is the 105th consecutive quarter in which the Company has paid a cash dividend. Ronald J. Seiffert, Chairman, President and CEO, added, “We are extremely proud that we were able to maintain our dividend throughout 2020 despite the challenges of COVID-19 on bank earnings. Based on the current market value of the Company’s stock, this represents an annualized dividend yield of approximately 5.50%, which continues to be among the highest in our peer group.”
Mr. Seiffert continued, “When looking back over a very challenging 2020, I am amazed at what our team accomplished during the midst of COVID-19. We successfully adopted CECL in the first quarter followed closely by the close and conversion of MutualBank on April 24th, the largest acquisition in the company’s history. We also completed a very successful $125 million sub-debt offering in September. This additional liquidity and capital at the holding company allowed us to resume our existing five million share common stock buyback program, of which we successfully repurchased approximately 760,000 shares in the fourth quarter at an average price of $12.20. Finally, we completed our branch optimization program which resulted in the consolidation of 43 offices in December 2020. In addition to all of these initiatives, we will be launching our digital strategy this year which will significantly enhance our online banking capabilities and streamline our account opening processes.
We want to give our customers the same award winning experience online as they are accustomed to receiving in our branch offices. In addition, we are expanding our capabilities in mortgage banking to all of our markets and expanding our geographic footprint for dealer services’ indirect auto and power sports lending. We have acquired talent to enhance our treasury management services, added resources to our corporate finance capabilities, created a healthcare vertical with a dedicated subject matter expert and will be opening a Loan Production Office in the greater Philadelphia market with the addition of a team of capable middle market bankers. As rewarding as 2020 was, we are even more optimistic about 2021.”
Net interest income increased by $13.9 million, or 15.7%, to $102.9 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2020, from $88.9 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, primarily due to a $7.8 million, or 8.0%, increase in interest income on loans receivable and a $6.2 million, or 47.9%, decrease in interest expense on deposits. The increase in interest income was primarily due to an increase of $1.935 billion, or 22.2%, in the average balance of loans which more than offset the decline experienced from a reduction in the yield on loans to 3.97% for the quarter ended December 31, 2020 from 4.47% for the same quarter last year. The decrease in interest expense was primarily due to a decrease in our interest-bearing cost of deposits to 0.30% for the quarter ended December 31, 2020 from 0.75% for the quarter ended December 31, 2019 which was partially offset by the growth in the average balance of interest-bearing deposits by $1.991 billion, or 29.1%. The net impact of these changes caused the Company’s net interest margin to decrease to 3.26% for the quarter ended December 31, 2020 from 3.73% for the same quarter last year.
The provision for credit losses decreased by $10.5 million, or 127.1%, due to a release of the allowance for credit losses of $2.2 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2020, compared to an expense of $8.2 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2019. This decrease in the provision was primarily the result of improvements in the economic forecasts.
Noninterest income increased by $3.9 million, or 13.9%, to $32.1 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2020, from $28.2 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2019. This increase was primarily due to the increase in mortgage banking income of $5.6 million to $7.1 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2020 from $1.5 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2019. Our successful mortgage banking income was the result of continued efforts to expand our secondary market sales capabilities over the past year, as well as an interest rate environment conducive to refinance activity and attractive secondary market pricing. Also contributing to this increase was a $1.2 million, or 26.7%, increase in trust and other financial services income due to additional fee income received as a result of the acquisition of MutualBank. Partially offsetting these increases was a decrease in other operating income of $1.4 million, or 34.9%, due to a decline in swap fee income as well as a decrease of service charges and fees of $1.1 million, or 7.4%, primarily as a result of the fee income cap of the Durbin amendment on debit card interchange revenue which took effect for Northwest on July 1, 2020.
Noninterest expense increased by $16.3 million, or 21.3%, to $92.8 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2020, from $76.6 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2019. This increase primarily resulted from a $6.1 million increase in acquisition and branch optimization expense due to expenses incurred as part of the branch optimization initiative that occurred during December. In addition, compensation and employee benefits increased $6.1 million, or 14.6%, due to internal growth of compensation and staff as well as the addition of MutualBank employees. Also contributing to this increase was an increase in processing expenses of $1.9 million, or 18.7%, as we continue to invest in technology and infrastructure and as activity driven utilization fees for online and mobile banking and loan origination platforms has increased. Lastly, federal deposit insurance premiums increased $1.7 million due to assessment credits received in the previous year.
Net income for the year ended December 31, 2020 was $74.9 million, or $0.62 per diluted share. This represents a decrease of $35.6 million, or 32.2%, compared to the year ended December 31, 2019, when net income was $110.4 million, or $1.04 per diluted share. The annualized returns on average shareholders’ equity and average assets for the year ended December 31, 2020 were 4.72% and 0.58% compared to 8.36% and 1.07% for the prior year. This decrease in net income was the result of an increase in provision for credit losses of $61.3 million primarily as a result of COVID-19 and the expected impact on the allowance for credit losses as well as the acquisition of MutualBank and the required provision associated with the adoption of ASU 2016-13, Current Expected Credit Losses (“CECL”). In addition, noninterest expense increased by $51.4 million, or 17.4%, primarily as a result of the additional operating expenses of MutualBank as well as the one-time costs associated with acquisitions and branch optimization costs which increased $16.6 million for the year. Partially offsetting these factors was an increase in net interest income over the prior year of $31.3 million, or 8.7%, due to balance sheet growth during the year as well as a $32.9 million, or 33.1%, increase in fee income highlighted by a $27.6 million increase in mortgage banking income.
Headquartered in Warren, Pennsylvania, Northwest Bancshares, Inc. is the holding company of Northwest Bank. Founded in 1896, Northwest Bank is a full-service financial institution offering a complete line of business and personal banking products, employee benefits and wealth management services, as well as the fulfillment of business and personal insurance needs. As of December 31, 2020, Northwest operates 162 full-service community banking offices and eight free standing drive-through facilities in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Indiana. Northwest Bancshares, Inc.’s common stock is listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market (“NWBI”). Additional information regarding Northwest Bancshares, Inc. and Northwest Bank can be accessed on-line at www.northwest.com.