ASB Bancorp (ASBB) in Asheville, N.C., posted a second-quarter loss as the value of real estate securing some nonperforming loans declined.

The $799 million-asset parent of Asheville Savings Bank said the net loss was $114,000, compared with net income of $742,000 a year earlier.

ASB's loan-loss provision ballooned by 207% from a year earlier, to $1.3 million. The higher provision came as ASB increased reserves to counter a drop in the value of real estate used to secure certain impaired loans.

The loss comes as the company operates under the watchful eye of the activist investor Stilwell Group, which started buying shares in the thrift company last fall. Funds controlled by Stilwell Group took an 8.3% stake in ASB in October, one day after the company converted from a mutual to a stock savings bank. The investor said in a regulatory filing at that time that it would push management for dividends and share buybacks, and "aggressively seek board representation" if those executives dilute tangible book value.

At the time of its initial investment, Stilwell Group said the thrift shouldn't open new branches and that its loans from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta were "misguided, given the composition of its balance sheet." ASB had $60 million in Federal Home Loan bank advances at June 30.

Stilwell waged a losing proxy battle this year against the $170 million-asset Harvard Illinois Bancorp (HARI) after the activist investor tried to force a sale of the company and replace its chief executive. Stilwell continues to fight a proxy battle with First Financial Northwest (FFNW) of Renton, Wash. The investor filed a lawsuit againt First Financial in Washington state court in May, disputing a third party's decision to disqualify votes for Stilwell's candidate in a proxy vote.

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