This week’s Stock of the Week is a strong regional bank that’s cautiously growing.

Acquire and Grow

Ameris Bancorp (ABCB) is a highly focused, Florida-based regional bank that has grown substantially through acquisitions over the past decade.

In December, it agreed to buy Georgia-based Fidelity Southern, giving it an additional foothold in a rapidly growing part of the US. Fidelity Southern has strong penetration in the Atlanta area. Ameris also operates in Alabama and South Carolina but is conservative in running costly brick-and-mortar offices, of which it has 125. The president of Fidelity Southern will join the Ameris management team—an unusual retention-of-talent approach that should help integrate the companies more effectively.

Ameris serves both retail and commercial customers, but it has less commercial real estate exposure than its peers—which means even if the US economy slows, Ameris should be less affected than comparable banks. Revenue was $466 million last year and will likely be $730.9 million this year and $897.5 million in 2020. The dividend of $0.40/share/yr. recently yielded 0.98% and appears secure.

Fiscal year: December. Earnings per share: 2020 est./$4.73…2019 est./$4.10…2018 /$3.38.

Anton Schutz is founder and senior portfolio manager of Mendon Capital Advisors, Rochester, New York, which manages $1 billion.

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