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FIRST ESSEX BANCORP, INC. ANNOUNCES FOURTH QUARTER RESULTS

 FIRST ESSEX BANCORP, INC. ANNOUNCES FOURTH QUARTER RESULTS
 LAWRENCE, Mass., Feb. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- First Essex Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ: FESX) announced today a net loss for the fiscal quarter ended Dec. 31, 1991 of $4.3 million (or 72 cents per share) compared to a net loss of $17.2 million (or $2.85 per share) for the same period in 1990. Net interest income before the provision for possible loan losses totalled $3.8 million for the quarter, compared to $3.1 million for the same period in 1990. The decrease in net loss resulted primarily from a reduction in the provision for possible loan losses to $3.5 million for the quarter compared to $12.9 million for the same period in 1990.
 The net loss for the year ended Dec. 31, 1991 was $16.4 million (or $2.73 per share) compared to a net loss of $29.8 million (or $4.96 per share) for the same period in 1990. Net interest income before the provision for possible loan losses totalled $14.7 million for the year, compared to $16.1 million in 1990. The provision for possible loan losses totalled $11.0 million in 1991 compared to $28.4 million in 1990. Expenses associated with the holding of other real estate owned (including the write down of carrying values in certain cases) totalled $6.1 million for the year compared to $10.2 million in 1990.
 At Dec. 31, 1991, non-accruing loans were $33.1 million compared to $34.4 million at Sept. 30, 1991 and $34.9 million at Dec. 31, 1990. The allowance for possible loan losses was $18.3 million (or 55.3 percent of non-accruing loans) compared to $15.9 million (or 46.2 percent of non-accruing loans) at Sept. 30, 1991, and $17.6 million (or 50.4 percent of non-accruing loans) at Dec. 31, 1990. Included in non-accruing loans at Dec. 31, 1991 were $6.4 million of loans which were current as to both principal and interest and $3.6 million of loans 60 to 89 days past due about which there were doubts as to ultimate collectibility. Restructured loans totalled $4.3 million at Dec. 31, 1991; there were no restructured loans at Sept. 30, 1991, or Dec. 31, 1990. Other real estate owned at Dec. 31, 1991 totalled $15.8 million compared to $17.8 million at Sept. 30, 1991 and $20.5 million at Dec. 31, 1990.
 Leonard A. Wilson, president and chief executive officer, stated: "While we see some encouraging signs, the region's recession continues. We saw further progress this quarter in reducing our level of non-accruing loans. We continued to review the condition of loans and other real estate owned and added to our loan loss provision and reduced the carrying value of certain other real estate owned where we deemed it prudent. At Dec. 31, 1991 our capital ratio was 8.44 percent."
 First Essex Bancorp, Inc. is the holding company of First Essex Savings Bank, Lawrence, Mass., and First Essex Bancorp of New Hampshire, Inc. and its subsidiary, First Essex Savings Bank of New Hampshire, Windham, N.H. First Essex Bancorp subsidiaries have 10 retail banking offices in northern Massachusetts and two offices in southern New Hampshire.
 The company at Dec. 31, 1991 had total assets of $511 million and deposits of $449 million. Deposits at First Essex Savings Bank in Massachusetts are insured in full by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Deposit Insurance Fund of Massachusetts. Deposits at First Essex Savings Bank of New Hampshire are insured up to the applicable limits by the FDIC.
 FIRST ESSEX BANCORP, INC.
 CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS
 (In thousands, except per share amounts)
 Three months ended Year ended
 12/31/91 12/31/90 12/31/91 12/31/90
 Consolidated
 Operating Results
 Interest and
 dividend income $10,657 $12,103 $45,347 $53,675
 Interest expense 6,845 9,026 30,675 37,527
 Net interest income 3,812 3,077 14,672 16,148
 Provision for
 possible loan losses 3,532 12,912 10,952 28,424
 Net interest income
 (loss) after provision
 for possible
 loan losses 280 (9,835) 3,720 (12,276)
 Non-interest income:
 Loan fees 93 96 406 393
 Deposit fees 373 239 1,121 1,052
 Other 96 118 370 390
 Securities gains 65 398 247 3,478
 Loan sales
 gains 148 21 316 157
 Gain (loss) on sale
 of OREO 15 -- (169) --
 Total non-interest
 income 790 872 2,291 5,470
 Non-interest expense:
 Salaries, fees,
 benefits 1,956 1,778 6,949 6,789
 Equipment and
 occupancy 648 682 2,624 2,597
 Other real estate owned 1,476 6,764 6,055 10,220
 Other administrative 1,816 1,491 6,650 5,669
 Retail branch write-off 285 -- 973 ---
 Merger costs -- 40 -- 1,226
 Goodwill write-off -- -- -- 2,537
 Total non-interest
 expense 6,181 10,755 23,251 29,038
 Loss before income
 taxes (5,111) (19,718) (17,240) (35,844)
 Income taxes (benefits) --- (2,561) --- (6,019)
 Net loss before
 extraordinary item (5,111) (17,157) (17,240) (29,825)
 Extraordinary item 800 --- 800 ---
 Net loss after
 extraordinary item $(4,311) $(17,157) $(16,440) $(29,825)
 Loss per share before
 extraordinary item (85 cents) $(2.85) $(2.86) $(4.96)
 Loss per share after
 extraordinary item (72 cents) (2.85) (2.73) (4.96)
 Dec. 31, Dec. 31,
 1991 1990
 (In thousands)
 Balance Sheet Data
 Total assets $510,709 $550,768
 Loans, net 353,760 417,917
 Investments 116,944 80,402
 Deposits 449,032 455,207
 Borrowings 8,999 25,907
 Stockholders' equity 43,103 59,404
 Book value per share $7.17 $9.88
 Capital to asset ratio 8.44 pct 10.79 pct
 -0- 2/21/92
 /CONTACT: David W. Dailey or James A. Sgroi of First Essex Bancorp, 508-681-7500/
 (FESX) CO: First Essex Bancorp, Inc. ST: Massachusetts IN: FIN SU: ERN


EG-SH -- NE008 -- 1563 02/21/92 17:28 EST
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