Earnings wrap: Sitel, Symbion, Community First

Call center operator to raise $75M in stock sale, discontinued operations hurt surgery center chain, Treasury auctions TARP stake in Columbia bank

Call center manager Sitel posted a net loss of $18.8 million, more than double last year's $9.1 million, as sales fell and interest and tax expenses rose by a combined $6.6 million. Revenues fell 4 percent to $350 million as new business of almost $21 million was more than offset by $42 million of customer attrition.

Operating income slid by a quarter to $9.7 million. Adjusted EBITDA at the Nashville-based company came in at $21.0 million for the quarter versus $32.4 million in early 2013. Gross margins fell two points to 32.3 percent.

Sitel's board of directors last week approved the sale to existing shareholders of $75 million of preferred shares that will pay 16 percent in cumulative dividends by mid-2018. Proceeds of the sale will help the company "fund sales growth, invest in our clients, and execute ongoing cost initiatives." Majority investor Onex has subscribed for up to the full $75 million, but other shareholders are entitled to a pro rata share. The new preferreds are able to be converted to Class A common shares.

Surgery center chain Symbion posted a net loss of $9.1 million, more than double its year-ago loss, in large part due to its discontinued operations. Revenues ticked up about 3 percent to $134 million while operating income rose 4 percent to $21.3 million. The Green Hills-based company handled almost 52,000 cases during the three months ended March 31, up slightly from early 2013. Revenue per case climbed more than 4 percent to $2,707.

Symbion's big net loss is due to two surgery centers the company is selling. A facility in Lynbrook, New York, was reclassified as a discontinued operation effective March 31, when the company also recorded an impairment charge of $6.6 million to write down its assets to the estimated fair value. The sale of another center in Massachusetts is expected to be completed this year.

The parent of Community First Bank & Trust posted net income of $457,000 in the first quarter, reversing a small year-ago loss. The company was helped by a $320,000 drop in interest expense and a $500,000 loan loss provision reversal.

Also notable: Community First, which has been battling back from regulatory problems caused by the real estate slump, finished the quarter with capital ratios above the levels required by the consent order it signed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 2011. Loans ended March at $263 million, down from $274 million a year earlier. Total assets ticked up to $451 million from $448 million.

In their quarterly filing with regulators, Community First executives also said the Treasury last month auctioned off all of its preferred shares issued under the TARP program. Among the buyers were members of the company's executive team and board of directors.