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ChoiceOne Reports First Quarter 2024 Results

ChoiceOne Financial Services, Inc. ("ChoiceOne", NASDAQ:COFS), the parent company for ChoiceOne Bank, reported financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2024.

Financial Highlights

  • ChoiceOne reported net income of $5,634,000 for the three months ended March 31, 2024, compared to $5,633,000 for the same period in 2023.
  • Diluted earnings per share were $0.74 in the three months ended March 31, 2024, compared to $0.75 per share in the same period in the prior year.
  • Starting in May 2024, net interest income will be aided by forward starting pay-fixed swaps and the completion of amortization expense related to previously terminated swaps. The increase to net interest income will be approximately $732,000 per month using the March 31, 2024 SOFR rate of 5.34%.
  • Average total loan balances increased to $1.41 billion in the first quarter of 2024 compared to $1.36 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023 and $1.20 billion in the first quarter of 2023. Core loans, which exclude held for sale loans, loans to other financial institutions, and Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP") loans, declined by $2.7 million or an annualized 0.8% during the first quarter of 2024 and increased by $178.0 million or 14.7% since March 31, 2023.
  • Deposits, excluding brokered deposits, increased by $45.3 million or an annualized 8.6% in the first quarter of 2024. The increase in deposits in the first quarter is a combination of new business, recapture of deposit losses from the prior year, and some seasonality of municipal balances. Deposits as of March 31, 2024, excluding brokered deposits, increased $75.8 million or 3.7%, compared to deposits, excluding brokered deposits, as of March 31, 2023.
  • Net interest margin (fully tax-equivalent) in the first quarter of 2024 increased to 2.74%, compared to 2.72% in the fourth quarter of 2023, and declined from 3.09% in the first quarter of 2023. Fully tax-equivalent net interest income was $16.9 million in the first quarter of 2024 compared to $17.4 million in the first quarter of 2023.
  • Expenses are well managed, with $13.7 million of noninterest expense in the first quarter of 2024, a decrease from $13.8 million and $14.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 and the first quarter of 2023, respectively.
  • Asset quality remains strong with only 0.1% of nonperforming loans to total loans (excluding held for sale) as of March 31, 2024.

“We have been proactive in preparing our bank for the uncertainties of a shifting economic landscape with our focus on core deposits and loans, reducing expenses, and managing our interest rate risk. We believe these measures have positioned us to be prepared for current market conditions and interest rate environment. If the trajectory of interest rates is ‘higher for longer,’ we believe we are prepared. Our strategic approach is built to ensure that ChoiceOne remains resilient, and our financial foundation remains strong,” said Kelly Potes, Chief Executive Officer.

ChoiceOne reported net income of $5,634,000 for the three months ended March 31, 2024, compared to $5,633,000 for the same period in 2023. Diluted earnings per share were $0.74 in the three months ended March 31, 2024, compared to $0.75 per share in the same period in the prior year. During 2023 and 2024, earnings were negatively affected by increased deposit costs, and partially offset by organic loan growth and higher interest income on loans due to higher interest rates.

As of March 31, 2024, total assets were $2.7 billion, an increase of $260.8 million compared to March 31, 2023. The growth is primarily attributed to an increase in gross loans, which includes a $178.0 million increase in core loans, an increase in cash of $94.9 million, and a $30.0 million increase in loans to other financial institutions over the twelve month period ending March 31, 2024. However, this growth was tempered by a $57.5 million reduction in securities during the same time period. ChoiceOne has actively managed its liquidity to support organic loan growth, strategically shifting from lower-yielding assets to higher-yielding loans. This is reflected in the loan growth observed since March 31, 2023.

Deposits, excluding brokered deposits, increased by $45.3 million or an annualized 8.6% in the first quarter of 2024 and $75.8 million or 3.7% compared to March 31, 2023. Deposits grew in the first quarter of 2024 due to new business, recapture of deposit losses, and some seasonality in municipal balances. ChoiceOne continues to be proactive in managing its liquidity position by using brokered deposits, the Bank Term Funding Program (“BTFP”), and FHLB advances to ensure ample liquidity. At March 31, 2024, total available borrowing capacity from all sources was $960.7 million. Uninsured deposits totaled $792.3 million or 37.0% of deposits at March 31, 2024.

The increase in short term interest rates led to higher deposit costs, which rose to an annualized 1.65% in the first quarter of 2024, compared to an annualized 1.57% in the previous quarter and an annualized 0.62% in the first quarter of 2023. As deposits reprice and customers shift to certificate of deposits and other interest bearing products; this trend is likely to persist. ChoiceOne is taking active measures to control these costs and expects to pay lower rates on deposits than the federal funds rate. Interest expense on borrowings for the three months ended March 31, 2024 increased $1.8 million compared to the same period in the prior year, due to increases in borrowing amounts and interest rates. Borrowings include $170 million from the BTFP and $40 million of FHLB borrowings at a weighted average fixed rate of 4.7%, with the earliest maturity in January 2025. Total cost of funds increased to an annualized 2.0% in the first quarter of 2024 compared to an annualized 1.91% in the fourth quarter of 2023 and an annualized 0.79% in the first quarter of 2023.

The provision for credit losses expense on loans increased by $403,000 in the first quarter of 2024, due in part to two recently classified collateral dependent retail and consumer loan relationships. This was offset by a decline in provision for unfunded commitments leading to net provision for credit losses expense for the first quarter 2024 of $0. The ratio of the allowance for credit losses to total loans (excluding loans held for sale) was 1.13% on March 31, 2024 compared to 1.11% on December 31, 2023. Asset quality continues to remain strong, with annualized net loan charge-offs to average loans of 0.01% and nonperforming loans to total loans (excluding loans held for sale) of 0.13% as of March 31, 2024.

ChoiceOne uses interest rate swaps to manage interest rate exposure to certain fixed assets and variable rate liabilities. On March 31, 2024, ChoiceOne had pay-fixed interest rate swaps with a total notional value of $401.0 million, a weighted average coupon of 3.07%, a fair value of $20.2 million and an average remaining contract length of 7 to 8 years. These derivative instruments increase in value as long-term interest rates rise, which offsets the reduction in equity due to unrealized losses on securities available for sale. Included in the total is $200.0 million of forward starting pay-fixed, receive floating interest rate swaps used to hedge interest bearing liabilities. These forward starting swaps will pay a fixed coupon of 2.75% while receiving SOFR starting in late April 2024. At the SOFR rate on March 31, 2024 of 5.34%, these forward starting swaps would contribute approximately $432,000 monthly, which will partially offset interest expense. In addition, in March 2023, ChoiceOne eliminated all receive-fix, pay floating swap agreements for a cash payment of $4.2 million. The loss is being amortized in interest income with an expense of approximately $300,000 monthly through April 2024, which was the remaining period of the agreements. The effect of these two items will increase net interest income by approximately $732,000 monthly starting in May 2024.

Shareholders’ equity totaled $206.8 million as of March 31, 2024, up from $168.7 million as of March 31, 2023. This increase is due to increased retained earnings and an improvement in accumulated other compressive loss (AOCI) of $23.6 million compared to March 31, 2023. The improvement in AOCI, despite the rise in interest rates, is due to both the shortening duration and maturing (paydowns) of the securities portfolio, as well as an increase in unrealized gain of the pay-fixed swap derivatives. ChoiceOne Bank remains “well-capitalized” with a total risk-based capital ratio of 12.6% as of March 31, 2024, compared to 13.0% on March 31, 2023.

Noninterest income increased $380,000 in the three months ended March 31, 2024, compared to the same period in the prior year. The increase was largely due to earnings on a bank owned life insurance death benefit claim in the amount of $196,000 and an increase in customer service charges of $138,000 in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023. These increases were offset by changes in the market value of equity securities in the three months ended March 31, 2024, compared to the same period in the prior year.

Noninterest expense declined by $311,000 or 2.2% in the three months ended March 31, 2024 compared to the same period in 2023. The decline in total noninterest expense was due to a decline in employee health insurance benefits as claims to date have been lower than past years and a decline in occupancy and equipment related to two branch closures during the quarter. ChoiceOne anticipates a low impact on customer retention related to the branch closures and expects to save around $700,000 annually from this decision. This was offset by increases to FDIC insurance and other costs related to inflationary pressures. Management continues to seek out ways to manage costs, but also recognizes the value of investing in innovation and attracting the best talent in our industry to compete effectively in our markets.

“Amidst the current economic climate, we are looking ahead with optimism. Our recent deposit growth is a testament to the trust our customers place in us, and it is a solid foundation for the future. We remain focused on seizing opportunities and our goal to be the best bank in Michigan,” said Kelly Potes, Chief Executive Officer.

About ChoiceOne

ChoiceOne Financial Services, Inc. is a financial holding company headquartered in Sparta, Michigan and the parent corporation of ChoiceOne Bank, Member FDIC. ChoiceOne Bank operates 35 offices in parts of Kent, Lapeer, Macomb, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ottawa, and St. Clair counties. ChoiceOne Bank offers insurance and investment products through its subsidiary, ChoiceOne Insurance Agencies, Inc. For more information, please visit Investor Relations at ChoiceOne’s website at choiceone.bank.

Forward-Looking Statements

This release may contain forward-looking statements. Words such as "anticipates," "believes," "estimates," "expects," "forecasts," "intends," "is likely," "plans," "predicts," "projects," "may," "could," "look forward," "continue", "future", "will" and variations of such words and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward looking statements. These statements reflect current beliefs as to the expected outcomes of future events and are not guarantees of future performance. These statements involve certain risks, uncertainties and assumptions ("risk factors") that are difficult to predict with regard to timing, extent, likelihood and degree of occurrence. Therefore, actual results and outcomes may materially differ from what may be expressed, implied or forecasted in such forward-looking statements. Furthermore, ChoiceOne undertakes no obligation to update, amend, or clarify forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. Risk factors include, but are not limited to, the risk factors described in Item 1A in ChoiceOne Financial Services, Inc.'s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2023.

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