Corrected: Simmons First Earned $77M in 1Q

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(A correction has been made to this article. See end for details.)

Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff, the holding company for Simmons Bank, on Tuesday reported first-quarter net income of $77.2 million, up more than 60 percent from the same period last year.

“I am very proud of our team and their demonstration of our community banking values during these trying times,” said Chairman and CEO George A. Makris Jr. said in an earnings release. “Many of our associates could not work from home because they were serving our customers who needed our help.”

The quarterly results include core earnings from banking operations of $73.8 million and $4.4 million from the sale of some branches in south Texas, less almost $1 million in merger expenses. 

Home BancShares Inc. of Conway, holding company for Centennial Bank, last week reported that an accounting change coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic had nearly wiped out its quarterly net income. But Simmons took a much smaller “current expected credit losses” hit in the first quarter of $26.1 million. CFO Bob Fehlman told Arkansas Business that Simmons — which operates in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas — had experienced less impact from the pandemic than banks, like Centennial, with operations and loan assets in COVID-19 hot spots like New York and Florida.

Simmons has taken advantage of the depressed stock market to buy back outstanding shares. Its stock, which was trading above $25 a share in February, has traded below $20 — at times as low as $15 — since early March. On March 4, according to the earnings release, the board of directors authorized buying back more shares, and the company bought back 4.9 million shares at an average price of $18.94 during the first quarter. 

Simmons reported $20.84 billion in assets as of March 31. As Arkansas Business reported earlier this month, the bank has temporarily closed more than 50 branches in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

(Correction, April 21, 2020: Language from the original article incorrectly contrasting the impact of the CECL accounting change on Simmons First National Corp. and Home BancShares Inc. has been corrected.)