First Guaranty Bancshares in Hammond, La., has only a handful of energy loans on its books, so concerns over the precipitous decline in oil prices in recent weeks is both frustrating and untimely.
The $1.5 billion-asset company on Friday announced it would postpone a stock offering that had been expected to raise about $65 million. Energy comprises a big chunk of Louisiana's economy and the ongoing slide in the price of oil spooked potential investors, Alton Lewis, First Guaranty's president and chief executive, said.
"We got a strong response, but questions about the impact of oil prices and the effect on the overall economy made people very nervous," Lewis said.
First Guaranty, the parent of the 78-year-old First Guaranty Bank, had planned to sell nearly 4.6 million shares at a maximum price of $21 each.
When the company launched its stock offering on Dec. 9, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil was selling for a little less than $64. Ten days later, when the offering was halted, the price per barrel had slid below $55. A month earlier, barrels were selling for $74.55 each.
Some analysts are predicting the price of oil might drop to as low as $50 per barrel. The downward trend has hit a number of well-known energy lenders hard. Cullen/Frost Bankers in San Antonio and BOK Financial in Tulsa, Okla., saw their shares hit one-year lows last week.
Oil's slide will undoubtedly hurt a number of Louisiana-based companies, but First Guaranty is not one of them, said Lewis, who has been the company's chief since October 2009. The company has earned $8.1 million this year, through Sept. 30, and Lewis said its fourth-quarter results will be strong.
First Guaranty's direct exposure to the oil industry is small, Lewis added. Oil-related loans totaled $22 million or 3% of total loans at Sept. 30. He noted that a number of borrowers, such as retailers and manufacturers, actually benefit from falling energy prices.
Those assurances were not enough to sway investors, so Raymond James, First Guaranty's investment banker, advised delaying the offering, Lewis said. While there is no official timetable for resuming the stock sale, Lewis said he hoped to go back to the market in March or April.
Raymond James did not return a call seeking comment.
Tabling the offering and the collection of $65 million in capital means First Guaranty will have to delay several growth initiatives. In its prospectus, the company said it planned to use funds from the sale to keep making its loans and deposits, along with "strategic acquisitions."
Lewis hinted that the company had been poised to do its first acquisition in more than three years, adding that First Guaranty "was ready to move forward" with an undisclosed number of deals before trouble with the stock offering gummed the works.
First Guaranty bought the $129 million-asset Homestead Bancorp in Hammond in 2007 and the $90 million-asset Greensburg Bancshares in Greensburg, La., in 2011.
Even though investor enthusiasm for banks exposed to energy seems to have cooled, banks continue to display a strong appetite for lending to energy firms. On Monday, Whiting Petroleum, an oil and gas producer in Denver, said it had received an additional $2 billion in credit from a consortium of lenders led by JP Morgan Chase.