Fifth Third CEO: Bank well-positioned for recovery

AP News
Posted: Apr 19, 2011 7:29 PM
Fifth Third CEO: Bank well-positioned for recovery

Fifth Third Bancorp is in a good position to succeed as it works to recover from the financial crisis and continue improving value for the regional bank's shareholders, its chief executive said Tuesday.

CEO and President Kevin Kabat told shareholders at their annual meeting that Fifth Third has a strong capital position and saw broad-based improvement in 2010 _ outperforming peers in many categories, including loan and deposit growth and net interest income.

The Cincinnati-based financial services company reported in January that it posted a fourth-quarter profit as revenue rose and delinquent and defaulted loans fell.

The company also took an important step forward in paying back $3.4 billion in TARP funds from the government's financial system rescue program this year, Kabat said. That allowed the company to boost its quarterly dividend on common shares to 6 cents, an increase of 5 cents from its previous dividend, but concerned shareholders want more increases. In responding to their questions, Kabat said the dividend "stays heavy on our minds as well," but he said the company's focus is on improving the core operating business _ something he said would "enable steps toward a more normalized dividend."

Shareholder Dee Bardes, of Cincinnati, said after the meeting that she wasn't satisfied with that answer, given the company's increased profitability.

Bardes, a 54-year-old divorced mother of two sons, said she has relied on the dividend to help with living expenses and fund her volunteer work as a family genealogist.

"I think we should be getting more now," she said. "I need it to live off of."

Kabat also said increased industry consolidation is predicted over the next few years and that while nothing is "imminent," Fifth Third expects to make acquisitions.

Fifth Third has worked to overcome a hard-hit housing market _ especially in key states such as Florida and Michigan _ and that market remains "sluggish at best." he told reporters after the meeting.

"We've seen some stabilization, more so in Michigan than we have so far in Florida," he said. "Florida was still so real-estate dominant that it's going to take Florida a little bit longer," Kabat said.