BUSINESS FIRST BANCSHARES, INC., ANNOUNCES FINANCIAL RESULTS FOR FISCAL YEAR 2019 AND Q4 2019

January 22, 2020

Baton Rouge, LA (January 22, 2020) – Business First Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ: BFST) (Business First), parent company of b1BANK, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, today announced its unaudited results for the year ended December 31, 2019, including net income of $23.8 million, or $1.74 per diluted share, increases of $9.7 million and $0.52, respectively, from the prior year. Core net income for the year ended December 31, 2019, which excludes noncore income and expenses, was $24.6 million, or $1.80 per diluted share, which reflects increases of $7.8 million and $0.35, respectively, from the prior year.

2019 was a year of successful transition for our company,” said Jude Melville, president and CEO. “We rebranded, we opened new locations in growth markets, we solidified relationships from our two most recent acquisitions and we increased core earnings per share year-over-year by almost 25%, while growing organically at a healthy, well capitalized rate and maintaining sound asset quality. I really couldn’t have asked for more from our team over the past year and we take the field just as excited about our opportunities in 2020 as we are celebratory of the year we had in 2019.”

On January 22, 2020, Business First’s board of directors declared a quarterly dividend based upon financial performance for the fourth quarter in the amount of $0.10 per share, same as the prior quarter, to the common shareholders of record as of February 15, 2020. The dividend will be paid on February 28, 2020, or as soon thereafter as practicable.

Quarterly Highlights

  • Improved Credit Quality. Ratios of nonperforming loans compared to loans held for investment and nonperforming assets compared to total assets decreased from 0.70% and 0.64%, respectively, at September 30, 2019, to 0.53% and 0.58% at December 31, 2019. Nonperforming assets for the quarter ended December 31, 2019 were impacted by $566,000 in write-downs on other real estate owned properties; however, excluding this impact, credit quality still improved compared to prior quarter.
  • Loan Growth. Total loans held for investment at December 31, 2019, were $1.7 billion, an increase of $15.5 million compared to September 30, 2019. Loan growth was 3.7% (annualized) for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, and 11.9% for year ended December 31, 2019. Loan growth for the quarter was tempered due to higher than anticipated paydowns and delayed closings due to the holiday calendar.
  • Net Interest Margin and Spread. Net interest margin and spread were negatively impacted due to the federal funds rate cut of an additional 25 basis points during the quarter ended December 31, 2019. Net interest margin and net interest spread were 4.08% and 3.65%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 4.10% and 3.66% for the quarter ended September 30, 2019. Excluding loan discount accretion, net interest margin and spread were 3.92% and 3.49%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 3.99% and 3.55% for the quarter ended September 30, 2019.
  • Dallas Branch Network Expansion. Business First opened its second full-service banking center in the Dallas, Texas metropolitan area in December 2019.

Financial Condition

December 31, 2019, Compared to September 30, 2019

Balance Sheet

As of December 31, 2019, Business First had total assets of $2.3 billion, total loans of $1.7 billion, total deposits of $1.8 billion and total shareholders’ equity of $285.1 million, compared to $2.2 billion, $1.7 billion, $1.7 billion and $280.3 million, respectively, as of September 30, 2019.

Total loans held for investment increased by $15.5 million compared to September 30, 2019, or 3.7% annualized, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019. Loan growth was tempered during the quarter due to higher than anticipated payoffs and delayed closings due to the holiday calendar.

Book value per common share was $21.47 at December 31, 2019, compared to $21.12 at September 30, 2019. Tangible book value per common share was $17.31 at December 31, 2019, compared to $16.96 at September 30, 2019.

Credit Quality

Nonperforming loans as a percentage of total loans held for investment decreased from 0.70% as of September 30, 2019, to 0.53% as of December 31, 2019. Nonperforming assets as a percentage of total assets decreased from 0.64% as of September 30, 2019, to 0.58% as of December 31, 2019. A portion of the decrease in nonperforming assets was associated with $566,000 in write-downs on other real estate owned properties during the quarter ended December 31, 2019.

December 31, 2019, Compared to December 31, 2018

Balance Sheet

As of December 31, 2019, Business First had total assets of $2.3 billion, total loans of $1.7 billion, total deposits of $1.8 billion and total shareholders’ equity of $285.1 million, compared to $2.1 billion, $1.5 billion, $1.7 billion and $260.1 million, respectively, as of December 31, 2018. The balance sheet increases were largely attributable to organic growth in loans and funding sources.

Book value per common share was $21.47 at December 31, 2019, compared to $19.68 at December 31, 2018. Tangible book value per common share was $17.31 at December 31, 2019, compared to $15.34 at December 31, 2018.

Credit Quality

Nonperforming loans as a percentage of total loans held for investment decreased from 0.89% as of December 31, 2018, to 0.53% as of December 31, 2019. Nonperforming assets as a percentage of total assets decreased from 0.74% as of December 31, 2018, to 0.58% as of December 31, 2019. The decreases were mainly attributable to improved credit quality in relation to the size of the loan portfolio and total assets of Business First.

Results of Operations

Fourth Quarter 2019 Compared to Third Quarter 2019

Net Income and Diluted Earnings Per Share

For the quarter ended December 31, 2019, net income was $5.8 million, or $0.42 per diluted share, compared to net income of $5.5 million, or $0.40 per diluted share, for the quarter ended September 30, 2019. The increase was largely attributable to additional interest and fee income on loans and a reduction in provision expense, offset by an adjustment to estimated income tax expense associated with the sale of the Mangham banking center and write-downs on other real estate owned properties.

Core net income, which excludes noncore income and expenses, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, was $6.1 million, or $0.45 per diluted share, compared to core net income of $6.3 million, or $0.46 per diluted share, for the quarter ended September 30, 2019. Notable noncore events impacting earnings for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, included the incurrence of $125,000 in losses associated with the disposal of former bank premises and equipment in noninterest income related to the rebranding of b1BANK and a $216,000 adjustment to estimated income tax expense associated with the sale of the Mangham banking center, compared to $594,000 in losses associated with the disposal of former bank premises and equipment in noninterest income and $288,000 of acquisition-related expenses in noninterest expense for the quarter ended September 30, 2019.

Return on Assets and Equity

Return on average assets and equity, each on an annualized basis, increased to 1.04% and 8.18%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 1.02% and 7.93%, respectively, for the quarter ended September 30, 2019.

As adjusted, core return on average assets and core return on average equity, each on an annualized basis, were 1.11% and 8.69%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 1.16% and 9.01%, respectively, for the quarter ended September 30, 2019.

Interest Income

For the quarter ended December 31, 2019, net interest income totaled $20.6 million and net interest margin and net interest spread were 4.08% and 3.65%, respectively, compared to $20.3 million, 4.10% and 3.66% for the quarter ended September 30, 2019.

Net interest margin and net interest spread (excluding loan discount accretion of $800,000) were 3.92% and 3.49%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 3.99% and 3.55% (excluding loan discount accretion of $544,000) for the quarter ended September 30, 2019. The ratios were negatively impacted by lower yielding loans due to the federal funds rate cut of 25 basis points at the end of October, offset by a reduction in cost of funds.

The average yield on the loan portfolio was 5.82% for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 5.87% for the quarter ended September 30, 2019. The average

yield on total interest-earning assets was 5.28% for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 5.32% for the quarter ended September 30, 2019.

Interest Expense

For the quarter ended December 31, 2019, overall cost of funds (which includes noninterest-bearing deposits) decreased by four basis points, from 1.31% to 1.27%, compared to the quarter ended September 30, 2019. The decrease in cost of funds was largely attributable to an overall reduction in interest rates on Business First’s deposit offerings and increase in noninterest-bearing deposits, offset partially by an increase in interest rates on other borrowings.

Provision for Loan Losses

During the quarter ended December 31, 2019, Business First recorded a provision for loan losses of $192,000, compared to $479,000 for the quarter ended September 30, 2019. The reserve for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, was impacted by lower net loan growth.

Fourth Quarter 2019 Compared to Fourth Quarter 2018

Net Income and Diluted Earnings Per Share

For the quarter ended December 31, 2019, net income was $5.8 million, or $0.42 per diluted share, compared to net income of $3.4 million, or $0.28 per diluted share, for the quarter ended December 31, 2018. The increase in net income and diluted earnings per share resulted from the overall growth and improved efficiency of Business First over the past 12 months, mainly attributable to growth in net interest income and partially offset by increases in noninterest expenses and income taxes. Both the growth in net interest income and increase in noninterest expenses and income taxes were impacted by the acquisition of Richland State Bank which occurred in December 2018.

Core net income, which excludes noncore income and expenses, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, was $6.1 million, or $0.45 per diluted share, compared to core net income of $4.7 million, or $0.38 per diluted share, for the quarter ended December 31, 2018. Notable noncore events impacting earnings for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, included the incurrence of $125,000 in losses associated with the disposal of former bank premises and equipment in noninterest income related to the rebranding of b1BANK and a $216,000 adjustment to estimated income tax expense associated with the sale of the Mangham banking center, compared to $2.1 million in noninterest expenses related to acquisition-related activities and $588,000 related to gains associated with former premises and equipment, investment and impaired loan sales for the quarter ended December 31, 2018.

Return on Assets and Equity

Return on average assets and return on average equity, each on an annualized basis, increased to 1.04% and 8.18%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, from 0.75% and 6.03%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2018.

As adjusted, core return on average assets and core return on average equity, each on an annualized basis, were 1.11% and 8.69%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 1.03% and 8.23%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2018.

Interest Income

For the quarter ended December 31, 2019, net interest income totaled $20.6 million and net interest margin and net interest spread were 4.08% and 3.65%, respectively, compared to $17.1 million, 4.07% and 3.70% for the quarter ended December 31, 2018.

Net interest margin and net interest spread (excluding loan discount accretion of $800,000) were 3.92% and 3.49%, respectively, for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 4.01% and 3.63% (excluding loan discount accretion of $283,000) for the quarter ended December 31, 2018. The reductions were largely attributable to the three federal funds rate cuts of 25 basis points which occurred throughout the second half of 2019.

The average yield on the loan portfolio was 5.82% for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 5.72% for the quarter ended December 31, 2018. The average

yield on total interest-earning assets was 5.28% for the quarter ended December 31, 2019, compared to 5.13% for the quarter ended December 31, 2018.

Interest Expense

For the quarter ended December 31, 2019, overall cost of funds (which includes noninterest-bearing deposits) increased by 15 basis points, from 1.12% to 1.27%, compared to the quarter ended December 31, 2018. The increase was largely attributable to an overall increase in interest rates on interest-bearing deposits over the past 12 months and the issuance of subordinated debt in December 2018.

Provision for Loan Losses

During the quarter ended December 31, 2019, Business First recorded a provision for loan losses of $192,000, compared to $939,000 for the quarter ended December 31, 2018. The large provision for the quarter ended December 31, 2018 was attributable to a single loan.

About Business First Bancshares, Inc.

Business First Bancshares, Inc., through its banking subsidiary b1BANK, formerly known as Business First Bank, operates 26 banking centers in markets across Louisiana and in the Dallas, Texas area. b1BANK provides commercial and personal banking, treasury management and wealth solutions services to small to midsize businesses and their owners and employees. Visit www.b1BANK.com for more information. Business First’s common stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “BFST.”

Non-GAAP Financial Measures

This press release includes certain non-GAAP financial measures (e.g., referenced as “core” or “tangible”) intended to supplement, not substitute for, comparable GAAP measures. These measures typically adjust income available to common shareholders for certain significant activities or transactions that, in management’s opinion, can distort period-to-period comparisons of Business First’s performance. Transactions that are typically excluded from non-GAAP measures include realized and unrealized gains/losses on former bank premises and equipment, investment sales, impaired loan sales, acquisition-related expenses (including, but not limited to, legal costs, system conversion costs, severance and retention payments, etc.). Management believes presentations of these non-GAAP financial measures provide useful supplemental information that is essential to a proper understanding of the operating results of the Company’s core business. These non-GAAP disclosures are not necessarily comparable to non-GAAP measures that may be presented by other companies. Reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures to GAAP financial measures are provided at the end of the tables below.

Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements contained in this release may not be based on historical facts and are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. These forward-looking statements may be identified by their reference to a future period or periods or by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “may,” “might,” “will,” “would,” “could” or “intend.” We caution you not to place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements contained in this news release, in that actual results could differ materially from those indicated in such forward-looking statements as a result of a variety of factors. We undertake no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that occur after the date of this news release.

Additional Information

For additional information on Business First, you may obtain Business First’s reports that are filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, free of charge by using the SEC’s EDGAR service on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov or by contacting the SEC for further information at 1-800-SEC-0330. Alternatively, these documents can be obtained free of charge from Business First by directing a request to: Business First Bancshares, Inc., 500 Laurel Street, Suite 101, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70801, Attention: Corporate Secretary.

No Offer or Solicitation

This release does not constitute or form part of any offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to purchase, any securities of the Company. There will be no sale of securities in any jurisdiction in which such an offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of such jurisdiction.