Regions Financial Earnings Call Insights: Calling Long-Term Debt and Capital Return Priorities

Regions Financial Corporation (NYSE:RF) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Calling Long-Term Debt

Erika Penala – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: My first question is one on your margin outlook. You’ve spoken in conferences in the past about being open to using some of your excess capital to call some of your long-term debt. I guess the first question is; A, are you still open to that in 2013; and B, does your margin guidance for stability include potentially calling some long-term debt?

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David J. Turner, Jr. – SEVP and CFO: Erika, this is David. We have consistently – want to fit ourselves in a position to optimize our balance sheet structure in terms of its cost on the liability side. We’ve been doing that through our deposit side as you’ve seen. And from a debt side, you’ve seen some of our utilization of our excess capital, if you will, to rightsize and adjust the funding. We do have other opportunities. Without going into specifics, I think if you evaluated what we have outstanding, you could probably glean what would be some potential targets. We do have elements of that, not all, but elements of rightsizing our liability structure baked into our margins. But we want to see how things play out during the year; there is still uncertainty with regards to the economy. So, we hadn’t baked in all the potential opportunities that we do have, but some are.

Erika Penala – Bank of America Merrill Lynch: I’m sure you will be asked this question several ways, but let me be the first to attempt it. Your adjusted expenses were $3.471 million this past year, and I guess as we’re thinking about the magnitude of decline, will it be similar to the 2% decline that you talked about in 2012, or is there an efficiency ratio that you can point us to as a target? I guess it’s the one question I am getting from investors in terms of magnitude of that outlook.