COMMONWEALTH Bank recently reported their earnings for the first quarter of 2012. Executive chairman William B Sands Jr announced that the bank's Comprehensive Net Income for the 3-month period ended March 31, 2012 was $12.5 million, a decline of 3.7% over the same period in 2011. Total assets at March 31, 2012 were $1.48 billion, a 3.5% growth over March 31, 2011's total assets of $1.43 billion, although down 1% from December 31, 2011. "The banking industry continues to be challenged by the slow pace of economic recovery with persistent high unemployment rates. "Private sector personal credit is down across the economy as a whole, and the bank reflects this decrease in its lending figures." he said. "Nevertheless, these are excellent results, considering the economic environment and we are pleased that not only did we pay our normal quarterly dividend of six cents per share at the end of March, we were able to pay an extra-ordinary dividend of five cents per share at the end of February. "All these dividends are paid to our 100% Bahamian shareholders and remains in the country." While the bank is cautiously optimistic about the level of economic activity over the remaining quarters of 2012, Mr Sands said. "The biggest challenge to the banking sector continues to be loan impairment. The industry average for non-performing loans at the end of March was 13.1%, as reported by The Central Bank of The Bahamas. "However, our non performing loans were 3.9% of the total portfolio, significantly below industry averages". The bank continues to maintain strong capital and liquidity ratios well in excess of regulatory requirements which have enabled the Bank to meet the economic challenges experienced since 2008 in its stride. "We anticipate further challenges ahead but we are pleased that we have been able to achieve very respectable results in 2012 in this environment. "We are confident that our vision of producing long-term profitable growth and delivering value to our customers, shareholders and the communities we serve is achievable in 2012 and beyond." said Mr Sands. "We wish to thank our customers for their loyalty and continued patronage. "Also, we would like to acknowledge and thank our dedicated and hardworking staff for their unwavering commitment to service excellence. "Our strong results would not be possible without the support from these stakeholders."