Benchmark closes out year with growth

Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. (BMBN), the Kenbridge-based holding company for Benchmark Community Bank, announced unaudited results for the quarter and year ending Dec. 31, 2023. Net income for the fourth quarter of 2023 was $3.5 million, or $0.78 per share, compared to $3.9 million, or $0.87 per share, posted for the fourth quarter of 2022. Net income for the year was to $15.4 million, or $3.41 per share, a 16.2% increase over net income of $13.2 million, or $2.93 per share, earned in 2022.

Overall, net interest income increased $5.4 million or 13.8%, to $44.7 million for 2023 from $39.3 million for 2022. Total interest income increased $11.6 million but was partially offset by an increase in interest expense of $6.1 million when comparing 2023 to 2022. Total loans held for investment increased $76.3 million, or 9.4%, during the year as loan demand remained strong despite the interest rate environment.

Investment securities, available for sale, were $96.1 million as of Dec, 31, 2023 compared to $138.9 million as of Dec. 31, 2022. The decrease was due primarily to maturities and normal cash flow which was redeployed to fund loan growth.

Total deposits increased $24.4 million, or 2.4%, from Dec. 31, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2023, and continued to provide a stable base for balance sheet growth. Noninterest income for 2023 was $9.4 million, up from $8.6 million for 2022, due primarily to increases in debit card, bank-owned life insurance, and trading revenue partially offset by lower gains on sale of loans and a bargain purchase gain recognized in 2022 and not repeated in 2023.

The provision for credit losses was $1.0 million for 2022 compared to a $3 thousand recapture of provision for credit losses for 2023. The provision for credit losses for 2023 consisted of a provision for loans of $351 thousand and a recapture for unfunded commitments of $354 thousand. The allowance for credit losses on loans as a percentage of loans was 0.78% as of Dec. 31, 2023, down from 0.84% as of Dec. 31, 2022.

LOOKING AT STOCK OWNERSHIP

A total of $492,000 was expensed to the bank’s employee stock ownership plan during 2023 to provide for plan liquidity needs and allow for future stock repurchases. The company expensed $702,000 to the plan during 2022.

Non-performing assets to total assets was 0.18% and 0.11% on Dec. 31, 2023 and 2022, respectively. A total of 31,907 common shares were repurchased during 2023 at an average price of $23.60 per share. A total of 6,550 shares were repurchased at an average price of $24.00 during 2022. The company had 4,493,890 shares outstanding as of December 31, 2023.

As of Dec. 31, 2022, total assets were $1.16 billion, an increase of $37.7 million, or 3.4%, over Dec. 31, 2022 total assets of $1.12 billion.

Shareholders’ equity, net of unrealized gains and losses on investment securities, was $98.7 million as of Dec. 31, 2023, an increase of $13.0 million, or 15.2%, over the Dec. 31, 2022 balance of $85.7 million. All capital ratios exceeded regulatory guidelines for a well-capitalized financial institution under the Basel III regulatory requirements as of Dec. 31, 2023.

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