UCFC CEO Reports Healthy Increase in Loan Portfolios

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – By year-end, United Community Financial Corp. expects to pay its shareholders 30% of its net income in cash dividends, up from 20% a year ago, its president and CEO, Gary M. Small, said Thursday.

As the holding company of the Home Savings and Loan Co. reported in its first-quarter earnings release last week, revenues were 9% higher than the first quarter a year ago, expenses only 1%, he said.

Loans originated during the three months ended March 31 were 16% ahead of those reported in the year-ago quarter, Small continued, and deposits grew at an annualized rate of 8.6%.

Commercial loans on the books of Home Savings should surpass $500 million by year-end, he said. They stood at $230 million in the first quarter of 2014.

Small offered his review and projections – succinct and on point — during UCFC’s annual meeting in the Ford Recital Hall of the DeYor Center for the Performing Arts. The meeting ran a half-hour, the last 10 minutes consisting of questions from two shareholders.

At the outset, the chairman of the board, Richard Schiraldi, waited patiently for discussion of the four items on the agenda. Silence was the response to each invitation for comment or questions.

So, as the teller of elections tabulated the results – one shareholder chose to vote in person rather than by proxy, Small reviewed 2015 and the outlook for this year.

The price of UCFC shares has risen 90% since the last annual meeting, he noted. Shares closed at $5.91, down four cents from Wednesday’s close, but the 52-week low was $3.58 and the high $6.33.

First-quarter earnings were slightly below those year-ago because Home Savings is “working through a troubled credit,” Small said, but he expects results for the remaining three quarters “to be as good as 2015.”

The CEO described the economy as “plodding along in solid fashion,” which makes the bank’s “robust loan growth of 16%” an achievement.

Mortgage lending reflects a healthier economy in Home Savings markets, which recently extended into Morgantown, W.Va. Small projects a 15% increase in residential mortgages for the year.

On the four matters up for a vote, Zahid Afzal, Patrick W. Bevack and Scott N. Crewson were re-elected to three year-terms as directors and Crowe Horwath LLP as independent or outside auditor for 2016.

UCFC paid Crowe Horwath $362,460 in audit fees for 2015, $10,540 less than the firm received for 2014, and the company paid Crowe Horwath $48,935 in tax fees, $8,365 less than for 2014.

Shareholders approved the advisory proposal on executive compensation and to amend UCFC’s articles of incorporation to change the requirement to adopt a resolution before shareholders to an 80% majority of the shares voted from an 80% majority of all shares.

Of the 47.65 million shares that could have been voted yesterday, only 30.3 million were.

Pictured: Gary Small, CEO of United Community Financial Corp., addresses shareholders at Thursday’s annual meeting.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.