Bank of Sierra's Q1 earnings rise 23 percent

Bank of the Sierra earnings rose 23 percent in the first quarter.Bank of the Sierra earnings rose 23 percent in the first quarter.Porterville's Sierra Bancorp, parent company of Bank of the Sierra, announced its net first quarter earnings jumped 23 percent, bolstered by reduced loan losses and non-interest income.

Net income for the quarter ended March 31 was $1.879 million, up from $350,000 in the first quarter of 2011. That spells a good first quarter, said James C. Holly, president and CEO, in a statement. But there were some bumps in the road.

"... Our nonperforming asset levels remain stubbornly high, due in part to our strategy of addressing loan issues individually rather than implementing a wholesale disposition plan, and our commitment to work with borrowers when possible to enable them continue to service their debt,” Holly said.

Foreclosed assets increased slightly during the quarter, ending the period with a balance approaching $16 million, though a recent review of impaired assets rate them "well-reserved based on current loss expectations or ... carried at the fair value of the underlying collateral, net of expected disposition costs," according to a news release.

Holly hinted that Sierra Bancorp would start taking a harder line on some of its bad loans.

"We’ve recently adjusted our strategy ... and plan to take more aggressive action on certain loans where the Bank’s willingness to work with the borrowers has not been accompanied by a corresponding degree of urgency on the part of those borrowers to implement essential changes," Holly said.

Sierra Bancorp is currently in its 35th year of operations with more than 400 employees and 25 branch offices throughout the Central Valley.