Biz Buzz: Heritage Oaks reports net loss; CEO cites progress

Heritage Oaks Bancorp, the owner of Paso Robles-based Heritage Oaks Bank, reported a net loss of $10.9 million for the third quarter that ended Sept. 30, compared to a net loss of $5.2 million in the year-earlier period.

Its nine-month net loss was $18.1 million, compared to a $3.6 million net loss for the year-earlier period.

The company attributed results primarily to a one-time, noncash $10.5 million charge related to deferred taxes and $4.4 million set aside for potential loan losses.

The company said it charged off $5 million in the third quarter because of several large problem loans.

Larry Ward, chief executive officer, said that while they are disappointed by results of the third quarter and first nine months, “we are pleased to report that the level of nonperforming assets has declined over the last two quarters.’’

As of Sept. 30, such assets totaled $35.9 million — down $4.2 million from June 30 and down $13.9 million from March 31.

Looking ahead, Ward said, “We have pretty good expectations for the future,’’ adding that if the one-time quarterly charges were netted out, the company would not have reported a net loss.

Furthermore, he said, the deferred-taxes expense is recoverable in future quarters if the company is able to show profitability.

Tim Coffey, an analyst with FIG Partners in San Francisco, said he estimates that Heritage Bancorp will return to profitability next year.

Ward said that so far this year, the bank has shown “very, very good progress on reducing problem loans in the portfolio and getting our arms around the problem credits.’’

Heritage Oaks Bancorp, with assets of about $990 million in the third quarter, raised $60 million in capital last spring through private placement — a move that strengthened the bank’s finances and helped address regulatory agency concerns. As a result, Patriot Financial Partners of Philadelphia is the company’s biggest shareholder with about 14.4 percent of the company.

Heritage Bancorp stock closed at $3.69 per share Wednesday, up 12.84 percent.

— Sandra Duerr

San Luis Sourdough future is unclear

A spokesman for Bimbos Bakeries USA, the American operation of Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo, said Wednesday it’s too soon to know what will happen to employees at San Luis Sourdough, one of its North American Fresh Bakery businesses.

On Tuesday, San Luis Sourdough’s parent company, Sara Lee Corp., was acquired by Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo for $959 million.

The deal makes Grupo Bimbo the largest baking company in the United States. The sale involved 41 bread-baking operations nationwide, including the bakery on Long Street in San Luis Obispo.

Citing security and competitive concerns, Sara Lee officials would not say how many people are employed at San Luis Sourdough.

With the acquisition of 13,000 employees at Sara Lee, Grupo Bimbo will have an American work force of 28,000 and operate 75 bakeries in 31 states.

“We don’t want to scare people,” said David Margulies of Bimbos Bakeries USA. “We really don’t know at this point what is going to happen. But the plan is to grow the company.”

Representatives at San Luis Sourdough would not comment on the deal.

Over the next five years, Grupo Bimbo plans to invest $1 billion in the technology and infrastructure of the bakeries.

— Stacy Daniel