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Friday, April 30, 2010

Atlantic Southern Financial Group, Inc. Reports Net Loss for First Quarter 2010

MACON, Ga., Apr 30, 2010 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) -- Atlantic Southern Financial Group /quotes/comstock/15*!asfn/quotes/nls/asfn (ASFN 2.08, -0.65, -23.81%) today reported a net loss of $1.6 million, or $0.39 per diluted share, for the first quarter of 2010 compared to net earnings of $742 thousand, or $0.18 per share, in the first quarter of 2009. The net loss was primarily driven by adding $1.3 million to the allowance for loan losses and paying approximately $911 thousand in FDIC quarterly assessments.

The net interest income for the first quarter of 2010 was $4.4 million compared to $5.4 million for the same period a year earlier, which represents a decrease of $1.0 million. The net interest margin was 2.08 percent for the first quarter of 2010 compared to 2.44 percent for the first quarter of 2009. "Our increased liquidity position coupled with the uncollectible interest on non-accrual loans is continuing to have a significant impact on our net interest margin," stated Mark Stevens, President and Chief Executive Officer of Atlantic Southern Financial Group. "Our management team and board of directors are intensely focused on balance sheet management, including capital preservation, liquidity management, lowering our cost of funds and reducing our reliance on non-core funding sources while maintaining our high level of commitment to customer service," Stevens said.

The Company's nonperforming assets decreased approximately $1.2 million, or 0.90 percent, to approximately $135.8 million as of March 31, 2010 as compared to $137.0 million as of December 31, 2009. This decrease is due mostly to pay downs and/or partial charge-offs on non-accrual loans since December 31, 2009. Non-accrual loans decreased $7.1 million from December 31, 2009 to March 31, 2010, largely due to approximately $9.3 million moving to other real estate owned. During the first quarter of 2010, there was approximately $5.1 million in loans moved to non-accrual. All non-accrual loans are adequately collateralized based on management's judgment and supported by recent collateral appraisals. The Company continues to actively market and continuously monitor all other real estate owned properties in order to minimize losses. "The economic conditions continue to negatively affect our credit quality. We expect the challenges to continue in 2010, but we remain committed to our strategy of aggressively working through our problem credits and pursuing the best economic outcome for our Company in each instance," stated Stevens.

As a result of the decrease in non-accrual loans, the total nonperforming assets decreased to 14.42 percent of total assets as of March 31, 2010 compared to 14.45 percent as of December 31, 2009. Net charge-offs annualized for the first quarter of 2010 were 0.92 percent of average loans compared to 0.27 percent for the same period a year earlier. During the first quarter of 2010, the Company charged off approximately $1.7 million primarily due to the impairment of several real estate loans.

At March 31, 2010, the allowance for loan loss amounted to $21.1 million or 3.03 percent of total loans outstanding compared to $21.5 million, or 2.99 percent, of total loans outstanding at December 31, 2009. Provision for loan losses increased approximately $1.0 million for the first quarter of 2010 to $1.3 million compared to the same period in 2009.

For the first quarter of 2010, noninterest income was $869 thousand compared to $1.3 million for the first quarter of 2009. The decrease is primarily attributed to the Company not reporting any gains on the sales of investment securities during the first quarter of 2010 compared to a $220 thousand gain on the sales of investment securities for the first quarter of 2009 that resulted from the sale of several mortgage-backed securities and state, county and municipal bonds during the first quarter of 2009. Also, the Company's mortgage department experienced a decrease in mortgage closing volume during the first quarter of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009.

Noninterest expense for the first quarter of 2010 was $5.6 million compared to $5.3 million for the first quarter of 2009. The increase was mostly due to the Company absorbing more other real estate expenses from several foreclosed properties and an increase of $715 thousand in quarterly FDIC assessments with an offset of a decrease in salaries and employee benefits of $449 thousand. Since the Bank entered into the Cease and Desist Order with the FDIC in September 2009, the Bank has experienced higher assessments due to the Bank's risk classification with the FDIC. At the end of the first quarter of 2010, the Company had a total of 84 foreclosed properties compared to 37 properties at the end of the first quarter of 2009. When comparing the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2009, the decrease in salaries and employee benefits is attributed to the Company having a 7 percent reduction in staff, the utilization of a bank officer one day per quarter furlough and no accrual for bonuses or to the Company's salary continuation plan.

At March 31, 2010, total gross loans were $698.3 million, down $20.3 million or 2.82 percent, from December 31, 2009. Total deposits at March 31, 2010 were $861.3 million, a decrease of $138 thousand, or 0.02 percent, from December 31, 2009. The Company was able to increase its retail time deposits at March 31, 2010 by $24.5 million from December 31, 2009 due to management's aggressive efforts to increase core deposits. Non-interest bearing and interest bearing deposits decreased at March 31, 2010 by $13.1 million from December 31, 2009. Management was able to decrease wholesale deposits at March 31, 2010 by $11.3 million from December 31, 2009 due to management's efforts to reduce reliance on wholesale deposits for funding needs.

Total shareholders' equity was $28.1 million at March 31, 2010. The Bank's total risk-based capital ratio at March 31, 2010 was 6.25 percent compared to 6.28 percent at December 31, 2009.

About Atlantic Southern Financial Group, Inc. and Atlantic Southern Bank

With headquarters in Macon, Georgia, Atlantic Southern Financial Group, Inc., operates nine banking locations in the middle Georgia markets of Macon and Warner Robins, five locations in the coastal markets of Savannah, Darien, Brunswick, one location in the south Georgia market of Valdosta, Georgia and one location in the northeast Florida market of Jacksonville, Florida. The Company specializes in commercial real estate and small business lending.

Safe Harbor

This news release contains forward-looking statements, as defined by Federal Securities Laws, including statements about financial outlook and business environment. These statements are provided to assist in the understanding of a future financial performance and such performance involves risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those in such statements. Any such statements are based on current expectations and involve a number of risks and uncertainties. For a discussion of factors that may cause such forward-looking statements to differ materially from actual results, please refer to the section entitled "Forward-Looking Statements" in Atlantic Southern Financial Group, Inc.'s annual report filed on Form 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Source:   Market watch

Azerbaijani minister familiarizes with Azerbaijani companies' work conditions in Georgia

Georgia, Tbilisi, April 29 / Trend N.Kirtzkhalia /

The Azerbaijani governmental delegation being on visit to Tbilisi, met with workers of the Azerbaijani companies acting in Georgia. Economic Development Minister Shahin Mustafayev met with the heads of 20 branches of Azerbaijani companies.

The meeting was held behind closed doors.

The participants of the meeting - representatives of the Azerbaijani companies familiarized Mustafayev with the achievements of their companies in Georgia and working conditions in the country. Businessmen also reported on the technical problems encountered in the course of their activities in Georgia.

Presently, the sides have the Georgian-Azerbaijani business forum in Tbilisi Radisson Hotel. The forum is held upon initiative of the Georgian National Investment Agency and AZPROMO.

According to the Azerbaijani State Statistics Committee's data, in 2009 the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Georgia amounted to $416.4 million.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

West condemns Georgia war spoof, divisions exposed

(Reuters) - Western envoys on Monday condemned a fake news report in Georgia that Russian tanks had entered the capital, wading into a row that has exposed deep divisions over opposition attempts to mend ties with Moscow.

World | Russia

Saturday's 20-minute primetime report on pro-government Imedi TV caused panic 18 months after the ex-Soviet neighbors fought a five-day war.

Shock has given way to accusation over the politics behind the broadcast, which Imedi said was a warning over contacts between opposition leaders and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

EU special envoy to the South Caucasus Peter Semneby said the stunt did not help stability in Georgia and the region.

"It seems to have created further internal political divisions. It may even have been intended to do so," he told Reuters.

Georgia holds local elections in May watched as a barometer of support for authorities under President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The opposition said the government was behind the report on Imedi, which is run by a close ally of Saakashvili.

The president's spokeswoman said on Monday the accusation was "absurd". But state manipulation of media remains a serious concern for Georgia's Western backers.

Meetings between Putin and Saakashvili defectors Nino Burjanadze and Zurab Nogaideli have fueled debate over Russia's intentions and whether Georgia should seek to mend relations with its northern neighbor.


Ordinary Georgians, many of whom have relatives in Russia, are suffering from severed diplomatic relations, closed air links and an effective Russian trade embargo.

Georgia's government says Russia cannot be trusted. The Kremlin says it wants nothing to do with Saakashvili, whose assault on rebel South Ossetia in August 2008 after clashes with separatists drew a crushing Russian counterstrike.

The fake broadcast, which ran without a banner to make clear it was not real, said Russian tanks were advancing on Tbilisi after Burjanadze and Nogaideli called on Moscow to intervene in political unrest following the mayoral vote.

Mobile phone networks crashed and there was a spike in calls to the emergency services.

Saakashvili criticized how the report was presented but said it was not unrealistic.

But U.S. ambassador to Georgia John Bass slammed the stunt.

The situation between Georgia and Russia is "serious enough without this sort of sensational quasi-news activity and I look forward to the examination of what happened by the appropriate organizations," he said.

Russia envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said Saakashvili must have known about the report.

"It's a well-planned act aimed at scheming new armed conflicts in the Caucasus region," he said.

Imedi was pro-opposition until police stormed its studios in 2007 at the height of opposition protests, deepening concern over media freedom and marginalization of the opposition under Saakashvili since the 2003 Rose Revolution swept him to power.

"This is a continuation of the political terror in Georgia aimed at burying the opposition," Nogaideli said.

(Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Moscow)

Georgia opposition leader slams Russian invasion hoax in interview

A fake Georgian TV news report breathlessly detailing a massive Russian invasion of Georgia appeared so terrifyingly real that it caused cellphone networks to crash while thousands of people poured into the streets of Tbilisi and other cities to besiege ATM machines, food stores, and gas stations.

Doctored videotapes played on Georgia's pro-government Imedi TV Saturday night showed Russian President Dmitri Medvedev allegedly ordering the invasion and a breathless update reported that Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili had been assassinated.

The Georgian opposition, painted as traitorous supporters of the fake Russian invasion in the broadcast, was outraged, perhaps no one more so than Nino Burdzhanadze. Ms. Burzahanadze, who last week traveled to Moscow to explore the possibility for political dialogue with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, was described as the head of a Russian-installed "peoples' government" at the end of the fictional broadcast.

Burdzhanadze says she deeply resents being depicted as a "pro-Russia traitor" and warned that she intends to sue Imedi in a Georgian court. In a telephone interview, Burdzhanadze said she believes that Saakashvili ordered the broadcast as a propaganda exercise to sow anti-Russian panic and tar Georgia's opposition, which has been calling for his resignation for more than a year with the brush of alleged disloyalty.

Fooling the experts
"Everything seemed so believable that I didn't doubt it was true," says Shorena Lortkipanidze, an expert with the independent Center for Conflict and Negotiation in Tbilisi, who was alone in her Tbilisi flat with her three young children when she watched the frighteningly realistic "simulation" about a hypothetical repeat of 2008's Russo-Georgian war.

"Imedi is a serious news station, with a lot of credibility, and there was nothing on the screen to say this was all hypothetical," she says. "It said that Tbilisi was going to be bombed. I panicked, and my only thought was, 'How will I save my children?' "

It says a lot that a professional political analyst like Ms. Lortkipanidze was taken in by the 20-minute broadcast, which reported that Russian tanks had burst out of the pro-Moscow enclave of South Ossetia and were racing toward Tbilisi while Russian bombers were pounding the country's airports and harbors At the end of the broadcast, a brief announcement informed viewers that it had been "a special report on possible future developments."

The impact of the broadcast is already being compared to the infamous 1938 "War of the Worlds" hoax authored by Orson Welles, which sowed panic among some radio listeners and convinced thousands of Americans that the end of the world was at hand.

"It's still impossible to understand what this was, some weird joke or a deliberate attempt to traumatize the population" for political purposes, says Mamuka Nebieridze, director of the independent Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies in Tbilisi.

Georgia Supreme Court Upholds Emergency Room Tort Reform Law

The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the state's 2005 tort reform legislation that limits the liability of emergency room medical care providers.

The 4-3 ruling turned aside complaints that the law is unconstitutional because it gives special liability exemption to emergency medical care providers, despite general laws governing negligence claims that apply to all other health care professionals. The Georgia Constitution prohibits special laws that are not applied uniformly throughout the state and when general laws on the same issue already exist.

But in the high court opinion in Gliemmo v. Cousineau, written by Justice George Carley, the majority found that the statute is a "general law," as opposed to a "special law," and therefore passes constitutional muster.

The ER Statue, as the law that was under review is known, was passed as part of the General Assembly's 2005 tort reform package. It states that certain emergency health care providers cannot be held liable unless there is "clear and convincing evidence" they were grossly negligent.

"This Court has found a statute to be a special law where it deals with a limited activity in a specific industry during a limited time frame," the Supreme Court ruling states. Georgia's ER Statute "is not a special law affecting only a limited activity in a specific industry during a limited time frame. Rather…it is a general law because it operates uniformly upon all health care liability claims arising from emergency medical care as provided in the statute."

The General Assembly passed the legislation in response to the growing difficulty in finding affordable medical malpractice insurance. "Promoting affordable liability insurance for health care providers and hospitals, and thereby promoting the availability of quality health care services, are certainly legitimate legislative purposes," the majority opinion states. "Furthermore, it is entirely logical to assume that emergency medical care provided in hospital emergency rooms is different from medical care provided in other settings, and that establishing a standard of care and a burden of proof that reduces the potential liability of the providers of such care will help achieve those legitimate legislative goals.

A trial court judge had also rejected the challenge to the legislation but asked for the state Supreme Court's guidance before proceeding to trial.

The challenge of the statute stemmed from a lawsuit filed in Muscogee County by Carol and Robert Gliemmo over treatment Carol received in the emergency room at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus from Dr. Mark Cousineau. Cousineau diagnosed Gliemmo with "hypertensive urgency," or greatly increased blood pressure. The Gliemmos later claimed the physician blamed her headache on "stress" and high blood pressure, prescribed Valium and sent her home. The hospital and physician claimed they gave her a beta-blocker to treat the high blood pressure and performed an EKG and blood tests. After her blood pressure went down and she told nurses she felt "much better," they released her. Two days later, her family practitioner ordered a CT scan, which revealed a brain hemorrhage that left her paralyzed.

Gliemmo and her husband sued Cousineau, St. Francis and the physician's employer, alleging professional negligence for failing to order a CT scan that would have detected her brain aneurysm. The defendants argued that the Gliemmos failed to establish that the emergency medical providers had been "grossly negligent," and therefore they were not liable under the state's ER Statute.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო, IPA: [sɑkʰɑrtʰvɛlɔ] ; English pronunciation: /ˈdʒɔrdʒə/ ( listen)) is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Situated at the juncture of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the east by Azerbaijan. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 km² and its population is 4.3 million.

The history of Georgia can be traced back to the ancient kingdoms of Colchis and Iberia, and it was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity in the 4th century. Georgia reached the peak of its political and economic strength during the reign of King David and Queen Tamar in 11th and 12th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire. After a brief period of independence following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Georgia was invaded by Bolshevik armies in 1921 and incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922.

The independence of Georgia was restored in 1991. Like many post-communist countries, Georgia suffered from the economic crisis and civil unrest during the 1990s. After the Rose Revolution, the new political leadership introduced democratic reforms[8] but the foreign investment and economic growth which followed initially have slackened substantially since.

Georgia's constitution is that of a representative democracy, though Freedom House has stated that the country is "not an elective democracy" , (a claim disputed by the Georgian authorities), organized as a unitary, semi-presidential republic. It is currently a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Community of Democratic Choice, and GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development. The country aspires to join NATO and the European Union.

In August 2008, Georgia engaged in an armed conflict with Russia and separatist groups from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In the aftermath of the conflict, Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, but at present only Nauru, Nicaragua, the de facto independent republic of Transnistria, and Venezuela have followed suit. On August 28, 2008, the Parliament of Georgia passed a resolution declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia "Russian-occupied territories".

Tuesday, February 2, 2010