Pasadena-based East West Bancorp Inc. posted a company record $1.7 billion in revenue for 2019 and beat analyst expectations with fourth-quarter income of $1.29 per share. East West also said loans grew 7% and deposits 5% for the quarter versus the same period in 2018.
Credit, tax credit amortization expense and derivative income fueled the results, said Lana Chan, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets Corp. “While the latter two may be somewhat temporary,” she wrote in a report, “credit improvement is encouraging as we had been concerned about an increase in criticized loans over the past several quarters.”
Despite the strong performance, annual net income fell to $674 million in 2019, a 4% decline from 2018. The bank attributed the drop to several large, one-time expenses. Income adjusted for the charges was up 4%, it said.
The bank’s investment in a solar energy Ponzi scheme hurt its profits last year. In February 2019, Benicia-based DC Solar filed for federal bankruptcy protection following an FBI raid at its headquarters. The federal agency described a Ponzi-like scheme potentially involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
In a filing that same month, East West revealed it had just under $54 million exposure in investments related to the disgraced solar business. This resulted in a $7 million pretax impairment charge and more than $30 million in costs to reverse previously claimed solar tax credits.
Despite those setbacks, December ended a fruitful decade for East West. According to the company, diluted earnings per share grew 458% between 2010 and 2019.
The bank said its asset size more than doubled over the 10-year span, reaching $44.2 billion by the end of 2019. It also said commercial loans and noninterest-bearing deposits grew nearly five-fold over that period.
Company Chairman and Chief Executive Dominic Ng credited the growth to expansion of East West’s banking products and services such as cash management, foreign exchange and interest rate risk hedging advising.
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