First Mariner plans to open 5 more branches this year First-quarter profit rises to $151,342


First Mariner Bancorp Chairman Edwin F. Hale Sr. recently posed a question to the company's board of directors: Should the bank slow down and concentrate on making money or should it keep growing at break-neck speed?

The decision? Keep growing.

"One hundred percent of our board has voted to take a real run at this opportunity right now and open more locations," Hale said yesterday after the company's annual meeting at the Sparrows Point Country Club in Dundalk.

"The type of growth that we have had has been extraordinary."

With Maryland's economy humming, First Mariner executives see little risk in putting the pedal to the metal.

The Canton-based banking company plans to open five more branches this year in Howard, Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties for a total of 23.

In an interview, Hale said he expects the 3-year-old bank's assets to grow 52 percent this year, to $400 million from $263 million. Loans are projected to grow 30 percent to $260 million and deposits should be up 17 percent to $235 million.

First Mariner made $151,342 in the first quarter ended March 31, 1998, compared with $24,076 during the corresponding period in 1997.

To fund future expansion and build its capital base, First Mariner plans to raise $20 million in capital this summer by issuing "trust preferred" securities. The securities are to be issued by First Mariner Capital Trust, a new entity that must be approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The securities, which have not been priced, are expected to trade like a bond, and investors will receive a fixed interest payment at a spread over the 30-year Treasury. Investors who own the securities will have no voting rights.

First Mariner exceeds all of the federal government's capital requirements, but Hale remembers how difficult it was to raise money for the company when he was chairman of Baltimore Bancorp in the early 1990s.

"We didn't like the feeling," he said. "We want to make sure we go out and get it."

First Mariner's directors also approved a 10 percent stock dividend yesterday to holders of the common stock as of the close of business May 26, 1998. The distribution date for the dividend is June 10, 1998.

Shares of First Mariner closed at $17, down 37.5 cents.

Pub Date: 5/13/98

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