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Edited Transcript of CPF earnings conference call or presentation 30-Jan-19 6:00pm GMT

Q4 2018 Central Pacific Financial Corp Earnings Call

HONOLULU Feb 4, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Central Pacific Financial Corp earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at 6:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Anli Ngo

Central Pacific Financial Corp. - President & Director

* David S. Morimoto

Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer

* Paul K. Yonamine

Central Pacific Financial Corp. - CEO & Chairman

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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

* Donald Allen Worthington

Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Research Analyst

* Jacquelynne Chimera Bohlen

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

* Laurie Katherine Havener Hunsicker

Compass Point Research & Trading, LLC, Research Division - MD & Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Central Pacific Financial Corp. Fourth Quarter 2018 Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) This call is being recorded and will be available for replay shortly after its completion on the company's website at www.centralpacificbank.com.

I'd like to turn the call over to Mr. David Morimoto, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Please go ahead.

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [2]

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Thank you, Laura, and thank you all for joining us as we review the fourth quarter financial results for Central Pacific Financial Corp. With me this morning are Paul Yonamine, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Catherine Ngo, President and Chief Executive Officer of our bank subsidiary; and Anna Hu, Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer.

During the course of today's call, management may make forward-looking statements. While we believe these statements are based on reasonable assumptions, they involve risks that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. For a complete discussion of the risks related to our forward-looking statements, please refer to our recent filings with the SEC.

And now I'll turn the call over to Paul.

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Paul K. Yonamine, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - CEO & Chairman [3]

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Thank you, David, and good morning, everyone. We are pleased to have ended the year with a strong fourth quarter that generated net income of $15.8 million as well as the consistent performance throughout 2018, which resulted in an annual net income of $59.5 million and diluted earnings per share of $2.01.

We also achieved improvements across the board on key performance measures, including return on average assets, return on average shareholders' equity, efficiency ratio and net interest margin.

We also continue to return shareholder value consistently throughout 2018 with cash dividends and stock repurchases, which by year-end reduced the number of CPF common shares outstanding by 3.8% from December 31, 2017. David will provide more details on the financial highlights of the quarter and year-end results.

Now the economic outlook for Hawaii continues to project positive growth in 2019, however at a decelerated rate compared to the past few years. The visitor industry remained strong throughout 2018. And as of November, visitor arrivals were up by 6.1% and visitor expenditures were up by 8% year-over-year. The current projection for 2019 are increases of 1.9% in arrival and 4.2% in expenditures over 2018.

The forecast for other key economic indicators are also positive in 2019 at a more moderate rate compared to 2018. This includes stable job growth at close to 1%, real personal income at 1.7% and real GDP at 1.2%.

Construction activity in 2019 is expected to remain strong based on $2.8 billion of nongovernment building permits issued year-to-date as of November 2018, which was a slight increase of 0.5% over the same period a year ago.

At this time, Catherine will provide some of the bank's highlights of the quarter. Catherine?

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Anli Ngo, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - President & Director [4]

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Thank you, Paul. The driving factors of our fourth quarter performance can be primarily attributed to strong loan growth and improvements in net interest margin and asset quality. For the year 2018, consistent loan growth provided for increased net income. A positive impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also contributed to our strong earnings for the year.

Total loans increased by $100 million or by 2.5% over the previous quarter-end and by $308 million or by 8.2% from the same period a year ago. On a sequential quarter basis, loan growth was distributed across all loan types with the exception of a 2.5% decrease in the construction loan portfolio. On an annual basis, strong growth was realized in all loan categories led by increases of 15.4% in commercial and industrial loans and 13.8% in home equity loans. Residential and commercial mortgages also grew by 6.5% and 6.4%, respectively.

Asset quality and our credit risk profile continued to improve with a 25% reduction in nonperforming assets over the same period a year ago to $2.7 million or 5 basis points of total assets.

Total deposits on a year-over-year basis remained flat. However, core deposits increased by 0.6% and government time deposits declined by 8.1%.

Competitive pricing for deposits in our local market has been escalating in this interest rate environment. However, net interest margin remained stable throughout the year with a significant increase in the fourth quarter due to loan growth, higher loan and investment yields as well as the increase in noninterest-bearing deposits.

Our efficiency ratio has improved for the fourth consecutive quarter, primarily due to our continued efforts to improve our operational efficiency.

At this time, I'll turn the call over to David to review in more detail the highlights of our financial performance. David?

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [5]

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Thank you, Catherine.

Net income for the fourth quarter of 2018 was $15.8 million or $0.54 per diluted share compared to net income of $15.2 million or $0.52 per diluted share reported last quarter.

Net income for 2018 was $59.5 million or $2.01 per diluted share compared to net income of $41.2 million or $1.34 per diluted share in 2017. The 2017 results were negatively impacted by tax reform.

Return on average assets in the fourth quarter was 1.10% and return on average equity was 12.90%. For the 2018 year, return on average assets was 1.05% and return on average equity was 12.22%.

Net interest income increased by $1.4 million and the net interest margin expanded to 3.28% on a sequential quarter basis. The increases were due to strong loan growth and higher loan yields. We also had $0.5 million in interest recoveries on nonaccrual loans reflected in net interest income in the fourth quarter.

As previously announced, we completed the redemption of $20 million in trust-preferred securities in December 2018 and an additional $20 million in early January 2019. These redemptions would help to further improve net interest income and net interest margin.

During the fourth quarter, we recorded a credit to the provision for loan and lease losses of $1.4 million compared to a credit provision of $0.1 million recorded in the prior quarter. Net recoveries in the fourth quarter totaled $2.5 million, primarily due to a $4.5 million recovery on a single land loan. At December 31, our allowance for loan and lease losses was $47.9 million or 1.17% of outstanding loans and leases.

Fourth quarter 2018 other operating income totaled $9.4 million. The sequential quarter decrease was primarily due to $0.8 million lower bank-owned life insurance income and a $0.3 million loss on sale of investment securities. The sequential quarter decline in BOLI income was due to a $0.4 million death benefit recorded in the prior quarter and equity market volatility in the current quarter that impacted equity values in one of our insurance policies.

During the fourth quarter, we changed our accounting method for low-income housing tax credit investments to the proportional amortization method. As a result of this change, we reclassified the amortization expense on the investments from other operating expense to income tax expense in current and prior periods.

Other operating expense for the fourth quarter decreased to $33.6 million. The sequential quarter decrease was primarily driven by the core deposit premium being fully amortized at the end of the prior quarter, which eliminated $0.7 million of quarterly expense. Additionally, in the current quarter, there was a total $0.6 million in credits to the reserves for unfunded commitments and mortgage repurchase losses.

The efficiency ratio for the fourth quarter was 62.2%, which was an improvement from the 62.8% reported last quarter. The effective tax rate increased to 27.6% in the fourth quarter due to a true-up to the amortization expense on low-income housing tax credit investments, less tax-exempt income and return to provision adjustments. Going forward, we expect the effective tax rate to be approximately 25% to 26%.

During the fourth quarter of 2018, we repurchased roughly 306,000 shares of common stock at an average cost per share of $26.35. We've also repurchased an additional 78,000 shares of common stock month-to-date in January at an average cost of $25.91.

Finally, I'd like to close the financial summary by summarizing some of the highlights of our fourth quarter results. Strong quarter-over-quarter increase in net interest income and net interest margin driven by strong loan growth and an increase in loan yields. Efficiency ratio continues to improve. Solid asset quality and capital ratios.

And now we'll return the call to Paul.

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Paul K. Yonamine, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - CEO & Chairman [6]

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Thank you, David. Overall, we are very pleased with our financial performance in 2018 and look forward to meeting the challenges in the coming year. On the national and global levels, the new year appears to have started off with heightened political and economic volatility. We remain confident that our focus on strengthening customer relationships together with a solid business plan to improve our operations and service offerings will allow us to achieve our 2019 performance targets.

On behalf of Catherine and our management team, I would like to express my appreciation to our employees, customers and shareholders for their continued support and confidence in our organization as we work toward attaining our key milestones in the coming year.

At this time, we'll be happy to address any questions you may have. Thank you very much.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) And the first question will come from Aaron Deer of Sandler O'Neill & Partners.

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Aaron James Deer, Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst [2]

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It sounds like you're fairly optimistic for the year ahead and coming off the strong year. I guess, as you look at your pipeline and where that stands today, and -- do you think we could, again, see this high single-digit growth in the Hawaii loan portfolio in 2019?

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Anli Ngo, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - President & Director [3]

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I'll take that question. And we're continuing to see strength in the Hawaii economy, as Paul mentioned, and we do expect good growth in the Hawaii book in 2019. I would guide you for 2019 to mid-single-digit loan growth.

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Aaron James Deer, Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst [4]

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Okay. And then, on the deposit side, obviously, there's been a good deal of deposit competition through the better part of this year, particularly, I guess, in the public deposits where you guys allowed some of that to run off. The -- I guess, looking at how you're using on your funding, the securities book seems to have been coming down kind of throughout the year as you've used funding to support your loan growth. What's your expectation for the investment securities book in 2019 given kind of where the deposit competition stands today as well as kind of the shape of the yield curve?

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Paul K. Yonamine, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - CEO & Chairman [5]

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David?

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [6]

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I think, for the investment portfolio, the plan at this point is to continue on the path we've been on for the last couple of quarters where the investment portfolio largely has been in a runoff mode. So that's the plan at this point. Obviously, things could change depending on the shape of the yield curve.

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Aaron James Deer, Sandler O'Neill + Partners, L.P., Research Division - MD, Equity Research and Equity Research Analyst [7]

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Okay. And then, just you obviously had a terrific improvement in the margin this quarter. I know there is a little bit of noise now with the recovery. But outside of that recovery, was there anything else that drove that increase other than just good core trends? And can we expect to build off of this level looking ahead?

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Paul K. Yonamine, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - CEO & Chairman [8]

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We had some great loan growth in Q4, but, David, maybe provide a little more color?

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [9]

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Yes. Aaron, yes, there was a little bit of interest recoveries in there, but even if you back that out, it was a solid quarter for net interest margin expansion. And like you stated, it was largely due to core trends. I think what we're starting to see is the asset sensitivity. We've also always talked about the balance sheet being largely well matched initially in the first year, 1.5 year, but once you get beyond that, the asset sensitivity of balance sheet does kick in. And I think what we're seeing now is we're seeing a little bit of that benefit. Loan pricing, new loan originations tend to be north of -- on a weighted average basis tend to be north of 4.5 today, which is a nice improvement over what we were seeing, say, a year ago. And then, on the deposit side, the team just did a great job. We -- basically, total deposits were relatively flat, but we were able to adjust the composition in a positive fashion. We grew core deposits, especially noninterest-bearing DDA and it afforded us the opportunity to run down some of the higher cost portions of the deposit portfolio. So all in all, a pretty good quarter.

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Operator [10]

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The next question will come from Jackie Bohlen of KBW.

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Jacquelynne Chimera Bohlen, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD, Equity Research [11]

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Looking at the sub-debt redemption, I know both of those have been previously announced. David, could you just provide us with an update on your anticipated net benefit from both the issuances? I know last quarter, we talked about the one issuance, but just curious if -- number one, if any of that has changed as rates have moved; and number two, what they would be in combination?

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [12]

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Yes, Jackie. So the first one was redeemed, I think, in mid-December last year, and the second one occurred in the first 10 days of January. So really, we haven't seen the benefit -- the benefit was not really baked into the fourth quarter numbers. You will really see the benefit in the -- beginning in the first quarter of this year. And the combined benefit is -- it works out to roughly $1 million in net interest income -- incremental $1 million in net interest income and roughly 4 basis points improvement in the NIM.

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Jacquelynne Chimera Bohlen, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD, Equity Research [13]

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Okay. That's helpful. And then, I noticed the increase in long-term advances outside of the redemption, that sounded like those were from the FHLB. Was that just strategic interest rate positioning? Or was there something else behind that?

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [14]

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Yes, Jackie, it was just stabilizing our funding position. We were borrowing a decent amount overnight and we made the asset/liability decision to stabilize a portion of that. And so we went out on a short ladder with the Federal Home Loan Bank on advances to lengthen the liability duration slightly. And it obviously was at much cheaper cost than what we were paying on the trust preferreds.

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Jacquelynne Chimera Bohlen, Keefe, Bruyette, & Woods, Inc., Research Division - MD, Equity Research [15]

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Yes, understood. And is that something you might look to continue if rates continue to increase?

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [16]

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I think that obviously would be an ALCO, an Asset/Liability Committee decision, but those are the strategies that we consistently discuss on a monthly basis. So it is something that we could avail ourselves of.

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Operator [17]

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(Operator Instructions) And our next question will come from Laurie Hunsicker of Compass Point.

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Laurie Katherine Havener Hunsicker, Compass Point Research & Trading, LLC, Research Division - MD & Research Analyst [18]

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I wondered if we could just go back to margin here. I just want to make sure that I'm thinking about this the right way. So if we're looking at your 3.28% margin, there was 1 basis point or so of nonaccrual recovery taking us down to 3.27%, plus 4 basis points, plus, again, we're going to continue to see the impact of your core deposit build and your noninterest-bearing sitting at now 29%. So is it out of the realm that we could see a margin in the first quarter of 3.33%, 3.34%?

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [19]

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So Laurie, I think the calc on the interest recoveries might be a little off. I think it's more like 2 or 3 basis points in the quarter. But you are correct that even backing that out, there was a nice improvement in the NIM. And then from there, you would layer on the benefit of the trust preferreds. So we're guiding for the next few quarters, Laurie, as 3.25% to 3.35%.

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Laurie Katherine Havener Hunsicker, Compass Point Research & Trading, LLC, Research Division - MD & Research Analyst [20]

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Okay, great. And then, can you just talk a little bit, in the expense line, you had a jump in the legal and professional services to $2.2 million. What was potentially nonrecurring? Or is that a new run rate?

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Paul K. Yonamine, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - CEO & Chairman [21]

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Laurie, this is Paul Yonamine. We've embarked on a comprehensive digital strategy review and we've opted to retain some external consultants to naturally address the digital strategy going forward for CPB. But in addition to that, we also took in some external help on our CECL project and also for compensation -- incentive compensation as well. So that's fundamentally the large components of that increase in other operating expense.

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Laurie Katherine Havener Hunsicker, Compass Point Research & Trading, LLC, Research Division - MD & Research Analyst [22]

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Okay. And will it likely continue at that same run rate? Or should we think about that coming down?

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Paul K. Yonamine, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - CEO & Chairman [23]

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No. We're still in the process of working with the external consultants. My sense is that we're going to continue the momentum throughout the year. And we'll have more to talk about as we learn more about what we need to do in the 3 areas that I touched on. So for the time being, I think you can count on momentum continuing in those areas.

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Laurie Katherine Havener Hunsicker, Compass Point Research & Trading, LLC, Research Division - MD & Research Analyst [24]

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Okay, great. And then, obviously, credit looking pristine here. You had $2.5 million of recoveries. If we think about that loan loss provision normalized relative to your mid-single-digit loan growth guide, Catherine, if we're thinking about loan loss provision running at $900,000 to $1 million run rate, is that the right level? Or how should we be thinking about that?

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Anli Ngo, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - President & Director [25]

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Yes, that's a hard one to -- I'll start and Anna may want to chime in, but that's a hard one to pin down. But as we signaled at the end of the last year, we were at the inflection point, and so we do expect going forward that we will have debit provisions. And so it's tied to, of course, loan growth, but then also credit quality and a number of other factors that are considered in the calculation.

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Laurie Katherine Havener Hunsicker, Compass Point Research & Trading, LLC, Research Division - MD & Research Analyst [26]

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Okay. So I mean, I guess, as we are thinking about that, if we just net out the recovery, theoretically, this quarter, you would've been at about $1 million. Am I thinking about that the right way, or is there something else I'm missing?

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Anli Ngo, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - President & Director [27]

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In the range, that's right, Laurie.

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Laurie Katherine Havener Hunsicker, Compass Point Research & Trading, LLC, Research Division - MD & Research Analyst [28]

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Okay, great. That's helpful. And then last question, as you finished out a very, very strong year, your capital returns on buybacks and dividends sitting about 100%, can you just refresh us on how you're thinking about that for 2019?

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [29]

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Laurie, I think the capital management strategy is going to be largely the same with a little bit of a twist. So we, obviously, will continue the quarterly cash dividend with a payout ratio and yield comparable to our peers. So we'll continue to move forward with that. Previously, we were pretty clear that we would return the remainder of retained earnings through an open market share repurchase plan. That was the capital plan because we did feel that we had excess capital on the balance sheet. But now that we've been doing that for several years and then with the repayment of $40 million of our trust -- of the recent repayment of $40 million of our trust preferreds, we do think that, that excess capital piece has been largely removed from the balance sheet. So I think it's going to be more opportunistic going forward. So the cash dividend, obviously, will stay there, but we're not going to overtly state that we're going to eliminate the rest through an open market share repurchase plan. It really is going to be a function of the market conditions, the stock price and our other uses for that capital.

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Laurie Katherine Havener Hunsicker, Compass Point Research & Trading, LLC, Research Division - MD & Research Analyst [30]

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Okay. And just a follow-on with that, I mean because your stock price is certainly below where you repurchased most of it in 2018, can you help us think about in our modeling, how many shares we should think about in terms of as a buyback, when you've previously been running the last 4 quarters at a rate of close to 300,000 shares a quarter, and certainly, the stock price is lower? So can you help us think about that?

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David S. Morimoto, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - Executive VP, CFO & Treasurer [31]

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Yes. Again, I think the -- Laurie, the way to think about it is, the share repurchase is, obviously, an option that we can take advantage of and we can be opportunistic with. We're, obviously, the ultimate insider. So we can use that opportunistically. But we're just not going to commit to say that that's we're going to use the money 100% or retain the earnings. We're going to pull back from that. But again, to the extent that the share price is on the lower end of the 52-week range, we likely would be a buyer and a stronger buyer than if it were on the higher end of the range.

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Operator [32]

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The next question will come from Don Worthington of Raymond James.

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Donald Allen Worthington, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Research Analyst [33]

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It looks like you have been making some good progress on the efficiency ratio. Remind me of where you'd like to take that ratio over time.

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Anli Ngo, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - President & Director [34]

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So for 2019, we are forecasting that we will be in the low 60s. But over the longer term, so 2-, 3-year horizon, we will be in the high 50s.

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Donald Allen Worthington, Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division - Research Analyst [35]

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Okay. And that were there any loan purchases this quarter?

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Anli Ngo, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - President & Director [36]

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Yes. We had a loan purchase on the mainland. So if you look at the consumer line, you just see the bump up there and that included a $38 million unsecured loan purchase.

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Operator [37]

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And this concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Paul Yonamine for any closing remarks.

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Paul K. Yonamine, Central Pacific Financial Corp. - CEO & Chairman [38]

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Okay. Thank you very much for participating in our earnings call for the fourth quarter 2018. We look forward to future opportunities to update you on our progress. Thank you very much.

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Operator [39]

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The conference has now concluded. Thank you for attending today's presentation. You may now disconnect.