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Edited Transcript of CATY earnings conference call or presentation 17-Jul-19 10:00pm GMT

Q2 2019 Cathay General Bancorp Earnings Call

Los Angeles Jul 19, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Cathay General Bancorp earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, July 17, 2019 at 10:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Georgia Lo

Cathay General Bancorp - Assistant Secretary

* Heng W. Chen

Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer

* Pin Tai

Cathay General Bancorp - CEO, President & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Aaron James Deer

Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst

* Christopher Edward McGratty

Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD

* David John Chiaverini

Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - Senior Analyst

* Lana Chan

BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD & Senior Equity Analyst

* Matthew Timothy Clark

Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Cathay General Bancorp's Second Quarter 2019 Earnings Conference Call. My name is Sherry, and I'll be your coordinator for today. (Operator Instructions). Today's call is being recorded and will be available for replay at www.cathaygeneralbancorp.com.

Now I would like to turn the call over to Georgia Lo, Investor Relations of Cathay General Bancorp.

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Georgia Lo, Cathay General Bancorp - Assistant Secretary [2]

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Thank you, Sherry, and good afternoon. Here to discuss the financial results today are Mr. Pin Tai, Chief Executive Officer and President; and Mr. Heng Chen, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

Before we begin, we wish to remind you that the speakers on this call may make forward-looking statements within the meaning of the applicable provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 concerning future results and events, and that these statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. These risks and uncertainties are further described in the company's annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2018, and Item 1A in particular, and in other reports and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission from time to time. As such, we caution you not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statement, which speaks only as of the date of this presentation. We undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements or to publicly announce any revision of any forward-looking statements to reflect future developments or events, except as required by law.

This afternoon, Cathay General Bancorp issued an earnings release outlining its second quarter 2019 results. To obtain a copy, please visit us at our website at www.cathaygeneralbancorp.com. After comments by management today, we will open up this call for questions.

I will now turn the call over to our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Pin Tai.

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Pin Tai, Cathay General Bancorp - CEO, President & Director [3]

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Thank you, Georgia, and good afternoon. Welcome to our 2019 second quarter earnings conference call.

This afternoon, we reported net income of $72.2 million for the second quarter of 2019, a 2% decrease when compared to a net income of $73.7 million for the second quarter of 2018. Diluted earnings per share was $0.90 for both the second quarter of 2019 and 2018. In the second quarter of 2019, our gross loans grew by $316.1 million to $14.6 billion or an increase of 9% on an annualized basis. The increase in loans for the second quarter of 2019 was primarily driven by the growth in residential mortgage loans of $163.4 million or 17.7% annualized, commercial real estate loans of $56.7 million or 3.4% annualized, and commercial loans of $36.8 million or 5.4% annualized. We anticipate loan growth in 2019 of between 7% to 8%.

For the second quarter of 2019, our total deposits increased $276.6 million or 8.1% annualized to $14.4 billion. The increase in deposits for the second quarter of 2019 was primarily driven by the growth in time deposits of $204.6 million or 12.3% annualized and money market deposits of $69.6 million or 13.7% annualized.

We continued our stock buyback program and repurchased 641,894 shares of our stock at an average cost of [$35.84] (corrected by company after the call) per share in the third quarter -- in the second quarter of 2019. We may purchase additional shares in the second quarter -- second half of 2019, depending upon stock price, general business and market conditions and other pertinent matters.

With respect to the ongoing trade dispute between U.S. and China, we continue to monitor and evaluate the potential impact to our loan portfolio. Borrowers that we believe could be adversely impacted by the current tariffs will hold approximately 2.2% of our total loans.

With that, I will turn the floor over to our Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Heng Chen, to discuss the second quarter 2019 financials in more detail.

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [4]

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Thank you, Pin, and good afternoon, everyone.

For the second quarter, we announced net income of $72.2 million or $0.90 diluted per share. Our net interest margin was 3.58% in the second quarter of 2019 as compared to 3.83% in the second quarter of 2018 and 3.70% for the first quarter of 2019.

In the second quarter of 2019, interest recoveries and prepayment penalties added 3 basis points to the net interest margin compared to 4 basis points for the second quarter of 2018 and 2 basis points for the first quarter of 2019. We expect our net interest margin for the remainder of 2019 to be between 3.53% and 3.60% based on the assumption of a 25 basis point cut in the Fed funds rate at the end of July. Net interest income during the second quarter of 2019 increased by $5 million to $12.8 million when compared to the second quarter of 2018. This increase was primarily due to higher gains from equity securities of $4.4 million.

Noninterest expense increased by $6.4 million or 10.1% to $69.5 million in the second quarter of 2019 when compared to $63.1 million in the same quarter a year ago. For the second quarter of 2019, the increase in noninterest expense was primarily due to a $4 million increase in amortization expense of investments in low-income housing and alternative energy partnerships, a $2.6 million increase in salaries and employee benefits expense and a $2.2 million increase in the provision for unfunded commitments, partially offset by a $2.4 million decrease in marketing expense.

The effective tax rate for the second quarter of 2019 was 16.6%. We completed our investment in the solar tax credit fund in the second quarter, which we project will reduce our full year 2019 effective tax rate to approximately 19% to 19.5%. The second quarter effective tax rate reflects a year-to-date adjustment for the new full year effective tax rate.

Solar tax credit amortization was $3.5 million in the second quarter of 2019. We project solar tax credit amortization of approximately $18 million in 2019, with $5 million a quarter for the remainder of 2019.

At June 30, 2019, our Tier 1 leverage capital ratio decreased to 10.73% as compared to 10.83% at December 31, 2018. Our Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio decreased to 12.26% from 12.43% at December 31, 2018, and our total risk-based capital ratio decreased to 13.92% from 14.15% at December 31, 2018.

Net recoveries for the second quarter of 2019 were $0.1 million compared to net recoveries of $0.2 million in the first quarter of 2019 and net charge-offs of $0.2 million in the second quarter of 2018. There was no loan loss provision in the second quarter of 2019, first quarter of 2019 and second quarter of 2018. Our nonaccrual loans decreased by $2 million to $54.7 million or 0.38% of period-end loans as compared to the end of the first quarter of 2019.

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Pin Tai, Cathay General Bancorp - CEO, President & Director [5]

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Thank you, Heng. We will now proceed to the question-and-answer portion of the call.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Lana Chan with BMO Capital Markets.

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Lana Chan, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD & Senior Equity Analyst [2]

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I want to start with loan growth. First of all, you had really -- you guys had continued very strong growth on the resi mortgage side. We're hearing or reading stories about a slowdown on housing, especially on the West Coast and foreign buyers from China. Are you seeing any of that effect yet in terms of your demand?

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Pin Tai, Cathay General Bancorp - CEO, President & Director [3]

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I think, yes, the demand -- the pipeline that we have right now is still pretty strong. There's a slowdown in buyers from China. However, I think the local buyer is picking up.

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [4]

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Yes, that slowdown has been here for about 1.5 years. So the nonresident alien purchases are around 20% of our originations since the beginning of 2018.

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Lana Chan, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD & Senior Equity Analyst [5]

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Okay. So right now, the pipeline is still strong for your resi mortgage?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [6]

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Yes.

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Lana Chan, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD & Senior Equity Analyst [7]

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Okay. And Heng, can I just clarify the guidance range you gave for the margin? Did you say 3.53 to 3.60?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [8]

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Yes, yes.

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Lana Chan, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD & Senior Equity Analyst [9]

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Okay. What do you have embedded in terms of deposit cost in that margin guidance? You had an increase in deposit cost this quarter, a little bit more than I had expected, but you do have some CDs that are repricing downward. Can you talk about what your expectations are?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [10]

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Yes. So in Q3, we have about 24% of our CDs maturing, so it's about $1.8 billion. And the -- in August and September, going into the first week in October, is our traditional summer CD program. So the rate last year was 2.25%. We think the rate this year will be -- well, let's say about 1.9, and we may have more tiers than we had in the past for some of the smaller CDs. So there is 35 basis points for those CDs that are maturing in Q3.

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Lana Chan, BMO Capital Markets Equity Research - MD & Senior Equity Analyst [11]

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Okay. And so the pressure on the margin from the second quarter going forward is more on the loan yield side, I assume, in terms of some of your variable rate loans. Could you remind us how that reprices with the Fed cuts?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [12]

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Yes. I think probably the biggest factor in that is our Chinese New Year promotion having the full quarter impact. So 2 quarters from now, in Q1 of next year, we have $2.5 billion of our CDs repricing, or 34% of our CD book. And those rates, on average, about 2.25. So I think by that time, we could probably reprice those to about 1.80, if not lower.

Then in terms of floating rates and so forth, so the commercial and construction loans are 23% of the loan portfolio, and they're almost all variable rate. And then another 33% of our loan portfolio is variable rate CRE loans. So I guess there's not that much that's variable. And I think another way I like to look at it is from our call report, we give the repricing within the next 3 months. So about $3 billion or 21% of our total loans would reprice.

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Operator [13]

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And our next question comes from Chris McGratty with KBW.

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Christopher Edward McGratty, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [14]

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Heng, I just want to come back to the margin for a sec. The 3.53 to 3.60, what would need to occur to get to the high end of that range for the back half of the year?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [15]

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Oh, I think if we have some loan payoffs or loan recoveries that have some past nonaccrual interest, so that is possible. And I think that's -- we always like to give a range around where we are. And so the upside is only 2 basis points from Q2.

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Christopher Edward McGratty, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [16]

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Okay. But that would seemingly imply, if we do get one or multiple cuts by the Fed, to get to the high end, you would need to see kind of an unusual episodic recovery versus sustainability?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [17]

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That's right. That's right.

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Christopher Edward McGratty, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [18]

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Got it. Can we shift to capital for a moment? I think last quarter, you said you were going to be in the market for 200,000 to 300,000 shares. You did a little bit more because the market afforded you to. Can you remind us what's authorized and how you should -- how we should be thinking about the pace of buyback given where bank stocks are priced?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [19]

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Yes. Well, the authorization was 50 million, and so we're about, I think, 20 million into that -- a little less than 20 million into that. And so we think we'll probably buy back the same amount, maybe a little bit less, in Q3. And originally, we said our buyback would finish in Q1 of next year. I think at these price levels and where our capital is, we might finish in Q4 and then start a new one going into next year.

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Christopher Edward McGratty, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD [20]

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Okay. Great. And maybe if I can slip one in on the expenses. The bump-up in personnel costs, can you just walk us through how you're thinking about the run rate of expenses? I heard the solar credit. Wondering what the other plug would be on the amortization in the back half of the year and just kind of core expenses.

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [21]

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Yes, yes. So the solar amortization would be $5 million in Q3 and $5 million in Q4. And then in the second quarter, we accrue bonus expense based on how strong the net income is. So we probably have $1 million of extra bonus accrual in Q2 because of the catch-up in the tax rate. So I think the bonus expense for the second half of the year will be $1 million a quarter less than what we had in Q2.

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Operator [22]

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Our next question comes from Aaron Deer with Sandler O'Neill.

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Aaron James Deer, Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst [23]

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Heng, following up on your commentary regarding the pricing within the loan book, you mentioned 33% is variable rate CRE loans, if I heard you correctly. Is that -- when you say variable rate, is that repricing immediately? Or is that repricing based on a monthly, quarterly or annual renewal rate?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [24]

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Most of them are tied to prime.

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Aaron James Deer, Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst [25]

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Okay. And then the fee income, you had a $1.1 million increase attributed to wealth management. Is there anything seasonal or nonrecurring in there? Or is this kind of a decent run rate for that fee income line?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [26]

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I think last year was kind of low. So I think we have a stronger Q2, and the momentum was pretty good for that.

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Aaron James Deer, Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst [27]

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Okay. And then just lastly on the growth outlook. You gave some guidance in terms of expectations for overall portfolio growth for the year. Just curious, it sounds like the -- you sound pretty positive on the residential mortgage continuing to be good. How are the other pipelines and the other commercial and CRE and other books shaping up?

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Pin Tai, Cathay General Bancorp - CEO, President & Director [28]

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The pipeline looks pretty good. We did quite well in the oil and gas and the fund subscription lending side. And we also had a couple of new loan officers join us. So hopefully, we see more C&I loan growth.

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Operator [29]

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Our next question comes from Matthew Clark with Piper Jaffray.

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Matthew Timothy Clark, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [30]

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Just on the amortization expense, I'm not sure if I caught it, the low income housing expense that you expect here in the third and fourth.

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [31]

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It should be about $4 million a quarter in Q3 and Q4. The -- it might be a little bit less. We do our impairment analysis in the fourth quarter. And so we might reverse some prior impairment expense. So -- but for now...

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Pin Tai, Cathay General Bancorp - CEO, President & Director [32]

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It's about 4.

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [33]

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Four, yes, 4 or 5. It's $5 million, yes.

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Matthew Timothy Clark, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [34]

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$5 million, I'm sorry. I knew that was the solar. I just wasn't sure if it was the low-income housing, too. Okay. And then just on the -- I think last quarter, you give us a sense for what the all-in noninterest expense might be for the year. We're probably in the range, but just wondered if you wanted to update that guidance. I think it was previously $270 million to $275 million.

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [35]

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Yes, we're going to confirm that guidance. We closed 3 branches in the last couple of months. Telephone expense -- we had a telephone contract from Far East finally expire. And so the savings there, about $1 million per year. So for now, we're going to hold to that.

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Matthew Timothy Clark, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [36]

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Okay. Great. And then on credit, any larger nonperformers that resolved during the quarter, you expect to resolve in the third quarter, and any recoveries along those lines you might expect?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [37]

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We had, in last -- in Q1's conference call, we had this $10 million -- we talked about this $10 million loan that was in the process of being paid off. And it actually paid off, I believe, in late April. And then we're hopeful that we can have a $4.5 million CRE nonaccrual that's been on the books for many years. It's scheduled or it's supposed to pay off hopefully before the end of this month, and there's a good size recovery on that particular loan. But generally, the trend is -- in the nonaccruals is there's some churn, but it's -- we're hoping we can keep it stable, yes.

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Matthew Timothy Clark, Piper Jaffray Companies, Research Division - Principal & Senior Research Analyst [38]

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Okay. And any migration in criticized classified that might be tied to the trade war?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [39]

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There is some. That's why in Pin's comments, we didn't make the statement that we don't see any nonaccruals or charge-offs. So it's not enough to where we have to add to the loan loss provision, but there's a couple of isolated instances where we see pressure on different borrowers. Some in -- for a small borrower, they import athletic shoes and that -- yes, the tariffs had an impact on them. And then the exchange rate had an impact on another borrower, the weakening of the Chinese currency. So -- but nothing broad or systemic.

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Operator [40]

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(Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from David Chiaverini with Wedbush Securities.

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David John Chiaverini, Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - Senior Analyst [41]

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I wanted to follow up on that last question on credit quality. So when I look at the accruing loans past due 90 days or more of about $14.5 million versus 0 at March 31st, is that what you were just referring to with some of the pressure from the trade war? Is that what's causing that uptick?

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [42]

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No, that one is actually a CRE loan that was -- we approved the renewal a couple of months ago and there were some loan closing issues. And my understanding is we're renewing that loan today. So that's why we kept it in terms of over 90 days past due and still accruing. So it's a commercial real estate loan that's very well secured.

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David John Chiaverini, Wedbush Securities Inc., Research Division - Senior Analyst [43]

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Got it. So that should reverse come -- during the quarter.

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Heng W. Chen, Cathay General Bancorp - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [44]

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Yes. Yes, David.

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Operator [45]

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Thank you. I'm showing no further questions in the queue at this time. Thank you for your participation in today's question-and-answer session. I will now turn the call back over to Cathay General Bancorp's management for closing remarks.

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Pin Tai, Cathay General Bancorp - CEO, President & Director [46]

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Thank you for joining us for this call, and we look forward to speaking with you at our next quarterly earnings release date.

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Operator [47]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for participating in today's conference. This concludes the presentation. You may now disconnect. Have a good day.