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First BanCorp. reports $281M in net income in ’21, vs. $102M in ’20

First BanCorp., parent company of First Bank, reported net income of $281 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2021, compared to $102.3 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2020.

In an interview with News is my Business, First BanCorp. CEO Aurelio Alemán attributed the growth to the completion of the acquisition of Banco Santander in Puerto Rico — making 2021 the first full year that includes the combined numbers — the reversal of loan reserves made in 2020, and a growth in deposits.

“We had operational improvements as we launched online and digital systems that improved costs and efficiencies. And when you look at it the bank finished 2020 with the best ratios for liquidity, capital, and asset quality,” he said.

“The transaction allowed us to expand our footprint, while strengthening our leadership position in the Puerto Rico market,” he said.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2021, the financial institution reported net income of $73.6 million compared to $75.7 million for the third quarter of 2021, and $50.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Loan originations for the fourth quarter were $1.3 billion, “the best quarter we have had this year, with strong originations in the Puerto Rico and Florida regions,” he said. However, total loans decreased in the quarter by $75.5 million largely driven by a $73.3 million reduction in SBA PPP loans, the repayment of four large commercial relationships in the Florida and Virgin Islands regions that amounted to $124.6 million and a $111.6 million reduction in residential mortgage loans, partially offset by strong auto and commercial originations. Asset quality continued to benefit from an improving economic outlook, with non-performing assets at 0.76% of total assets.

Core deposits, net of brokered and government deposits, grew by $64.2 million during the quarter primarily in savings and demand deposit accounts in Puerto Rico, Alemán said.

Looking ahead in 2022, the bank executive the positive economic tendencies that the island is already showing in segments such as real estate, auto sales, investments and tourism growth provide optimism for the year.

“It’s the first time in many years since we’ve seen so many of these indicators on the rise,” he said. “The stimulus money that is still available and pending reconstruction funds will contribute to the economy showing sustainable growth for several years.”

Alemán said the “improved economic backdrop and strong tailwinds in our main market should continue to drive core performance in the near future. Moreover, the pandemic triggered an accelerated adoption of digital channels which continue to grow significantly, with digital engagement improving across all our digital functionalities. We are well positioned to compete in an increasingly digital banking system.”

Add to that the confirmation of the Debt Adjustment Plan last week, which he said should shift the government’s attention from that “to begin dedicating more time to economic development.”

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.
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