— As mentioned previously, loans ended 2009 at $918.54 million, a $71.41 million, or 8.4% increase over year end 2008.– Non-accruing loans increased to $14.30 million at December 31, 2009 from $11.48 million at December 31, 2008, total non-performing loans increased to $14.48 million at December 31, 2009 from $11.64 million at December 31, 2008.– Accruing classified loans increased to $16.19 million at December 31, 2009 from $13.74 million at December 31, 2008, after reaching a high point of $37.86 million at June 30, 2009.– Net charge-offs for 2009 were $1.71 million compared to $564 thousand for 2008.– The prolonged period of high economic uncertainty that existed throughout 2009 is projected to continue through much of 2010. Although non-accruing loans increased when comparing 2009 year end balances to 2008 year end balances, the individual loans that make up the balances changed significantly during the course of 2009 as a result of Merchants’ active account management process. The following discussion highlights the dynamic nature of these balances: Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Financial Highlights (unaudited) (Dollars in thousands except share and per share data) 12/31/09 09/30/09 12/31/08 09/30/08 ———– ———– ———– ———–Balance Sheets – Period EndTotal assets $ 1,435,248 $ 1,405,994 $ 1,341,210 $ 1,317,312Loans 918,538 929,236 847,127 814,598Allowance for loan losses (“ALL”) 10,976 11,177 8,894 8,367Net loans 907,562 918,059 838,233 806,231Securities available for sale 404,652 353,842 429,872 436,021Securities held to maturity 1,159 1,306 1,737 3,174Federal Home Loan Bank (“FHLB”) stock 8,630 8,630 8,523 8,403Federal funds sold and other short-term investments 10,270 10,260 111 111Other assets 102,975 113,897 62,734 63,372Deposits 1,043,319 1,030,802 930,797 949,521Securities sold under agreement to repurchase and other short-term debt 179,718 122,421 124,408 89,298Securities sold under agreement to repurchase, long-term 54,000 54,000 54,000 54,000Other long-term debt 31,215 68,698 118,643 117,758Junior subordinated debentures issued to unconsolidated subsidiary trust 20,619 20,619 20,619 20,619Other liabilities 15,365 19,069 13,046 9,295Shareholders’ equity 91,012 90,385 79,697 76,821Balance Sheets – Quarter-to-Date AveragesTotal assets $ 1,412,900 $ 1,394,457 $ 1,320,845 $ 1,307,023Loans 920,846 922,704 825,395 800,126Allowance for loan losses 11,510 10,958 8,596 8,509Net loans 909,336 911,746 816,799 791,617Securities available for sale and FHLB stock 371,059 367,979 436,712 446,688Securities held to maturity 1,224 1,374 2,187 2,909Federal funds sold and other short-term investments 63,553 53,576 2,420 5,664Other assets 67,728 59,782 62,727 60,145Deposits 1,037,955 1,026,527 946,534 947,674Securities sold under agreement to repurchase and other short-term debt 148,282 115,447 96,736 82,794Securities sold under agreement to repurchase, long-term 54,000 54,000 54,000 72,913Other long-term debt 46,097 79,107 117,996 99,355Junior subordinated debentures issued to unconsolidated subsidiary trust 20,619 20,619 20,619 20,619Other liabilities 14,999 13,209 9,845 9,979Shareholders’ equity 90,948 85,548 75,115 73,689Interest earning assets 1,356,682 1,345,633 1,266,714 1,255,387Interest bearing liabilities 1,180,087 1,179,117 1,110,612 1,100,447 12/31/09 09/30/09 12/31/08 09/30/08 ———– ———– ———– ———–Ratios and Supplemental Information – Period EndBook value per share $ 15.65 $ 15.55 $ 13.89 $ 13.40Book value per share (1) $ 14.82 $ 14.74 $ 13.15 $ 12.70Tier I leverage ratio 7.67% 7.60% 7.42% 7.50%Tangible capital ratio (2) 6.34% 6.43% 5.94% 5.83%Period end common shares outstanding (1) 6,141,823 6,131,175 6,061,182 6,049,720Credit Quality – Period EndNonperforming loans (“NPLs”) $ 14,481 $ 10,584 $ 11,643 $ 11,594Nonperforming assets (“NPAs”) $ 15,136 $ 11,386 $ 12,445 $ 11,594NPLs as a percent of total loans 1.58% 1.14% 1.37% 1.42%NPAs as a percent of total assets 1.05% 0.81% 0.93% 0.88%ALL as a percent of NPLs 76% 106% 76% 72%ALL as a percent of total loans 1.19% 1.20% 1.05% 1.03%(1) This book value and period end common shares outstanding includes 326,453; 320,371; 323,754; and 317,161 Rabbi Trust shares for the periods noted above, respectively.(2) The tangible capital ratio is a non-GAAP financial measure which we believe provides investors with information that is useful in understanding our financial performance. December 31, 2009 2008 ———– ———–Balance Sheets – Year to-Date AveragesTotal assets $ 1,376,441 $ 1,277,242Loans 901,582 781,645Allowance for loan losses 10,430 8,415Net loans 891,152 773,230Securities available for sale and FHLB stock 386,772 425,038Securities held to maturity 1,443 3,160Federal funds sold and other short-term investments 36,529 10,551Other assets 60,545 65,263Deposits 1,003,778 923,863Securities sold under agreement to repurchase and other short-term debt 115,395 89,382Securities sold under agreement to repurchase, long-term 54,000 62,046Other long-term debt 83,676 93,753Junior subordinated debentures issued to unconsolidated subsidiary trust 20,619 20,619Other liabilities 13,880 12,276Shareholders’ equity 85,093 75,303Interest earning assets 1,326,326 1,220,394Interest bearing liabilities 1,162,402 1,070,181 For the Three Months For the Twelve Ended Months Ended December 31, December 31, 2009 2008 2009 2008 ——— ——— ——— ———Operating ResultsInterest incomeInterest and fees on loans $ 11,855 $ 11,797 $ 47,646 $ 46,611Interest and dividends on investments 4,158 5,777 18,694 21,971Total interest and dividend income 16,013 17,574 66,340 68,582Interest expenseDeposits 1,854 3,386 9,605 16,246Short-term borrowings 308 277 641 1,686Long-term debt 1,147 1,812 5,978 6,997Total interest expense 3,309 5,475 16,224 24,929Net interest income 12,704 12,099 50,116 43,653Provision for credit losses 600 600 4,100 1,525Net interest income after provision for credit losses 12,104 11,499 46,016 42,128Noninterest incomeTrust Company income 469 396 1,724 1,831Service charges on deposits 1,454 1,436 5,671 5,437Gain on investment securities 1,163 (369) 1,219 (287)Equity in losses of real estate limited partnerships, net (583) (462) (2,049) (1,849)Other noninterest income 875 823 3,750 3,526Total noninterest income 3,378 1,824 10,315 8,658Noninterest expenseSalaries and wages 4,210 3,837 14,510 13,730Employee benefits 663 1,038 4,348 3,873Occupancy and equipment expenses 1,616 1,557 6,405 6,082Legal and professional fees 600 541 2,499 2,449Marketing expenses 328 314 1,470 1,652State franchise taxes 276 263 1,142 1,066FDIC Insurance 315 195 1,964 356Other noninterest expense 2,410 1,499 7,760 5,893Total noninterest expense 10,418 9,244 40,098 35,101Income before provision for income taxes 5,064 4,079 16,233 15,685Provision for income taxes 1,268 1,015 3,754 3,768Net income $ 3,796 $ 3,064 $ 12,479 $ 11,917Ratios and Supplemental InformationWeighted average common shares outstanding 6,139,739 6,058,922 6,105,909 6,069,653Weighted average diluted shares outstanding 6,139,739 6,063,815 6,107,389 6,079,274Basic earnings per common share $ 0.62 $ 0.51 $ 2.04 $ 1.96Diluted earnings per common share $ 0.62 $ 0.51 $ 2.04 $ 1.96Return on average assets 1.07% 0.93% 0.91% 0.93%Return on average shareholders’ equity 16.69% 16.32% 14.67% 15.83%Net interest rate spread 3.61% 3.56% 3.62% 3.30%Net interest margin 3.75% 3.81% 3.80% 3.58%Net recoveries (charge-offs) to Average Loans (0.09%) 0.00% (0.19%) (0.07%)Net recoveries (charge-offs) ($ 824) $ 18 ($ 1,708) ($ 564)Efficiency ratio (1) 58.81% 60.75% 59.47% 62.27%(1) The efficiency ratio excludes amortization of intangibles, equity in losses of real estate limited partnerships, OREO expenses, gain/loss on sales of securities, state franchise taxes, and any significant nonrecurring items.Note: As of December 31, 2009, the Bank had off-balance sheet liabilities in the form of standby letters of credit to customers in the amount of $3.80 million.Source: Merchants. SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT–(Marketwire – January 27, 2010) – Merchants Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ: MBVT), the parent company of Merchants Bank, today announced net income of $12.48 million or diluted earnings per share of $2.04 for the year ended December 31, 2009. This compares with net income of $11.92 million or diluted earnings per share of $1.96 for the previous year. Merchants earned $3.80 million or diluted earnings per share of $0.62 for the quarter ended December 31, 2009, compared to net income of $3.06 million or diluted earnings per share of $0.51 for the same quarter of the previous year. Merchants previously announced the declaration of a dividend of 28 cents per share, payable February 18, 2010, to shareholders of record as of February 4, 2010.The return on average assets was 1.07% and 0.91% for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2009, respectively, compared to 0.93% for both the quarter and year ended December 31, 2008. The return on average equity was 16.69% and 14.67% for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2009, respectively, compared to 16.32% and 15.83% the same periods in 2008. “We are very pleased with the results for both the quarter and the year. The year over year improvement in net income and diluted earnings per share in a very challenging economic environment is a great testament to the efforts of our people, and a strong display of confidence in Merchants Bank by our customers,” commented Michael R. Tuttle, Merchants’ President and Chief Executive Officer.Merchants’ taxable equivalent net interest income increased $6.65 million to $50.38 million for 2009 compared to 2008, a 15.2% increase. Merchants’ taxable equivalent net interest margin increased to 3.80% from 3.58% over the same time period. The year over year increase in Merchants’ taxable equivalent net interest income was driven by a combination of an increase in average interest earning assets, a shift in the composition of the balance sheet, and lower funding costs during 2009. Merchants’ average earning asset base increased $105.93 million to $1.33 billion at an average yield of 5.02% for 2009 compared to $1.22 billion at an average yield of 5.63% for 2008. The decrease in the average rate earned on assets was more than offset by decreases in the cost of interest bearing liabilities, which decreased to 1.40% for 2009 from 2.33% for 2008.Loans ended 2009 at $918.54 million, a $71.41 million, or 8.4%, increase over 2008 ending balances. The largest increase was in municipal loans, which increased $41.99 million over 2008 ending balances. Residential real estate loans grew $39.44 million, or 10.0%, commercial real estate balances grew $17.21 million, or 6.3%, and commercial loans declined $12.29 million, or 9.7% over 2008 ending balances. Growth in residential real estate loans was driven by the favorable rate environment coupled with the fact that Merchants does not originate these loans for sale. Commercial loans decreased as borrowers accelerated the retirement of debt during this period of reduced economic activity. Year-end loan balances were as follows:(In thousands) December 31, 2009 December 31, 2008 —————— ——————Commercial, financial and agricultural $ 113,980 $ 126,266Municipal loans 44,753 2,766Real estate loans – residential 435,273 395,834Real estate loans – commercial 290,737 273,526Real estate loans – construction 25,146 40,357Installment loans 7,711 7,670All other loans 938 708 —————— ——————Total loans $ 918,538 $ 847,127 ================== ==================Merchants’ year-end investment portfolio decreased $25.80 million from 2008 to 2009. Merchants worked to decrease its credit exposure in the non-Agency sector of the investment portfolio during 2009, and sold its entire portfolio of commercial mortgage backed securities and several of its non-Agency CMOs during 2009. Additionally, Merchants sold three of its low coupon 30 year MBS during the last quarter of 2009 for a total gain of $1.15 million. Merchants sold bonds with a total par value of $73.16 million during 2009 for a net gain of $1.22 million. All securities purchased during 2009 were Agency backed paper.Merchants’ year-end deposit balances increased $112.52 million, or 12.1%, to $1.04 billion at December 31, 2009 from $930.80 million at December 31, 2008. All deposit categories grew over 2008 year end balances. Free Checking for Life balances ended 2009 at $234.03 million, a 28.2% increase over year end 2008 balances. Money market accounts ended 2009 at $247.17 million, a 19.4% increase over year end 2008 balances. Time deposits ended 2009 at $394.54 million, a 2.4% increase over year end 2008 balances and represented 37.8% of Merchants’ total deposits at December 31, 2009 compared to 41.4% of total deposits at December 31, 2008. Growth in all municipal categories accounted for $25.80 million of total deposit growth during 2009. “It is unusual to see growth in both loans and deposits during a recession, but that is exactly what happened in 2009. Clearly our communities responded to our position as Vermont’s only statewide independent bank,” commented Mr. Tuttle.Balances in Merchants’ cash management sweep product totaled $178.31 million at December 31, 2009, compared to $92.41 million at December 31, 2008. The balances are included with “Securities sold under agreements to repurchase and other short-term debt” on the accompanying balance sheet. The increase from 2008 to 2009 is primarily a result of strong growth in Merchants’ municipal portfolio. Merchants’ other long-term debt position decreased to $31.22 million at December 31, 2009 from $118.64 million at December 31, 2008. Merchants prepaid a total of $60.63 million in FHLB debt, at an average rate of 3.74%, over the course of 2009. Merchants incurred a prepayment penalty of $1.55 million in conjunction with the prepayment, Merchants estimates that it earned back approximately 40% of that prepayment penalty during 2009.The provision for credit losses for 2009 was $4.10 million compared to $1.53 million for 2008. The increased provision expense was the result of a number of factors: — Salaries and wages increased $780 thousand, or 5.7%, to $14.51 million compared to $13.73 million for 2009 compared to 2008. Normal pay increases and a $149 thousand higher incentive payout for 2009 compared to 2008 combined with additional staff hired in the corporate banking, government banking and trust areas contributed to the increase over the prior period.– Employee benefits increased $475 thousand, or 12.3%, to $4.35 million from $3.87 million for 2009 compared to 2008. The largest year-over-year increase was Merchants’ pension plan expense, which increased $391 thousand when comparing 2009 to 2008. The increases in the remaining categories are directly related to salary increases during 2009.– Merchants’ total FDIC insurance expense increased $1.61 million to $1.96 million for 2009 compared to $356 thousand in 2008. Merchants recorded a $630 thousand expense related to the FDIC’s special assessment during the second quarter of 2009. Additionally, Merchants’ regular FDIC insurance assessment, excluding the special assessment, increased $978 thousand to $1.33 million for 2009, compared to 2008, due to both an increase in the FDIC’s assessment rates and an increase in deposits.– Other noninterest expense increased $1.87 million, or 31.7%, to $7.76 million from $5.89 million for 2009 compared to 2008. There were a number of reasons for this increase. As mentioned previously, Merchants prepaid $60.63 million in FHLB debt during 2009, resulting in a $1.55 million prepayment penalty. Expenses related to problem loans and OREO totaled $292 thousand for 2009 compared to $25 thousand for 2008. Additionally, Merchants’ correspondent bank service charges have increased to $414 thousand for 2009, compared to $247 thousand for 2008. The large increases are a result of increased fees being passed on to Merchants by its primary correspondent bank, and a result of the very low interest rate environment. Merchants’ expenses related to Internet banking and its Cash Rewards Checking product were $225 thousand higher for 2009 compared to 2008. At the same time Merchants reduced losses related to fraudulent activity by $225 thousand during 2009. Most categories of operating expenses increased for 2009 compared to 2008. Mr. Michael Tuttle, Merchants’ President and Chief Executive Officer; and Ms. Janet Spitler, Merchants’ Chief Financial Officer, will host a conference call to discuss these earnings results at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, January 29, 2010. Interested parties may participate in the conference call by dialing (800) 230-1074; the title of the call is Earnings Release for Merchants Bancshares, Inc. Participants are asked to call a few minutes prior to register. A replay will be available until noon on Friday, February 5, 2010. The U.S. replay dial-in telephone number is (800) 475-6701. The international replay telephone number is (320) 365-3844. The replay access code for both replay telephone numbers is 143115.Vermont Matters. Merchants Bank strives to fulfill its role as the state’s leading independent community bank through a wide range of initiatives. The bank supports organizations throughout Vermont in addressing essential needs, sustaining community programs, providing small business and job start capital, funding financial literacy education and delivering enrichment through local sports activities.Merchants Bank was established in 1849 in Burlington, Vermont. Its continuing mission is to provide Vermonters with a statewide community bank that combines a strong technology platform with a genuine appreciation for local markets. Merchants Bank delivers this commitment through a branch-based system that includes: 34 community bank offices and 42 ATMs throughout Vermont; local branch presidents and personal bankers dedicated to high-quality customer service; free online banking, phone banking, and electronic bill payment services; high-value depositing programs that feature Free Checking for Life®, Cash Rewards Checking, Rewards Checking for Business, business cash management, money market accounts, health savings accounts, certificates of deposit, Flexible CD, IRAs, and overdraft assurance; feature-rich loan programs including mortgages, home equity credit, vehicle loans, personal and small business loans and lines of credit; and merchant card processing. Merchants Bank offers a strong set of commercial and government banking solutions, delivered by experienced banking officers in markets throughout the state; these teams provide customized financing for medium-to-large companies, non-profits, cities, towns, and school districts. Merchants Trust Company, a division of Merchants Bank, provides investment management, financial planning and trustee services. Please visit www.mbvt.com(link is external) for access to Merchants Bank information, programs, and services. Merchants’ stock is traded on the NASDAQ National Market system under the symbol MBVT. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.Some of the statements contained in this press release may constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements relate to expectations, beliefs, projections, future plans and strategies, anticipated events or trends and similar expressions concerning matters that are not historical facts. The forward-looking statements reflect Merchants’ current views about future events and are subject to risks, uncertainties, assumptions and changes in circumstances that may cause Merchants’ actual results to differ significantly from those expressed in any forward-looking statement. Forward-looking statements should not be relied on since they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that are, in some cases, beyond Merchants’ control and which could materially affect actual results. The factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations include changes in general economic conditions in Vermont, changes in interest rates, changes in competitive product and pricing pressures among financial institutions within Merchants’ markets, and changes in the financial condition of Merchants’ borrowers. The forward-looking statements contained herein represent Merchants’ judgment as of the date of this release, and Merchants cautions readers not to place undue reliance on such statements. For further information, please refer to Merchants’ reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. — Non-accrual loan balances ended 2008 at $11.48 million. Balances on these loans were reduced significantly during 2009 as a result of $5.67 million in collections during 2009 combined with $1.09 million in write- downs, resulting in ending balances at December 31, 2009 of $4.72 million on this group of non-accruing loans.– New loans totaling $12.37 million were added to non-accrual during 2009. Balances on these loans were reduced during 2009 by $2.01 million in repayments and $780 thousand in write downs resulting in ending balances at December 31, 2009 of $9.58 million on this group of non-accruing loans.– The total December 31, 2009 ending balance of $14.30 million in non- accruing loans consists of $4.72 million in net balances that have been on non-accruing for more than one year, and $9.58 million in net balances that were added during 2009. The additions to non-accrual reflected management’s concerns regarding fundamental credit issues which could affect borrowers’ ability to repay the loans and not, in most cases, as a result of payment delinquencies. Of the total non-accruing loans at year-end 2009, approximately 77% were attributable to six borrowers. Approximately $4.65 million of total classified loans carry some form of government guarantee. “Asset quality will remain a major focus for us in 2010. We have made good progress in reducing the non-accrual balances that started the year and also have detailed plans to reduce the December 31, 2009 balances during the course of 2010,” stated Mr. Tuttle.Merchants’ noninterest income increased $1.66 million to $10.32 million for 2009 compared to $8.66 million for 2008. Excluding gains (losses) on security transactions, Merchants’ noninterest income increased $151 thousand to $9.10 million from $8.95 million for 2009 compared to 2008. Trust Company income continued to decrease through the first three quarters of 2009 compared to 2008, but was higher for the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. Although the value of Trust Company assets under management has rebounded during 2009, values have not returned to their early 2008 levels. Service charges on deposits were $234 thousand higher in 2009 than 2008, primarily a result of slightly higher net overdraft fee revenue. Merchants’ expense related to Equity in Losses of Real Estate Limited Partnerships increased to $2.05 million for 2009 compared to $1.85 million for 2008 as Merchants continued its support of affordable housing in Vermont. Some of these partnerships generate historic rehabilitation credits which helped to reduce Merchants’ effective tax rate for 2009 to 23.1% compared to 24.0% for 2008. Other non-interest income was positively impacted by a gain of $180 thousand on the sale of Merchants’ Windsor, VT office.Total noninterest expense increased 14.2% to $40.10 million from $35.10 million for 2009 compared to 2008. There are several reasons for this increase:
By Dialogo April 13, 2011 In the jungle department of Caquetá (in southern Colombia) on 10 April, Colombian Army troops killed seven alleged FARC guerrillas, including one who participated in the kidnapping of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, the authorities announced. The Army indicated that ‘alias Diomédez’ died together with six rebels from Front 15 of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, a Marxist group), in armed clashes with troops from the land combat battalion of the Twelfth Brigade in the jungle municipality of Milán. “Alias Colacho, the second-ranking leader of the illegal armed structure, and alias Diomédez, in charge of the terrorist redoubt’s finances and suspected of participation in the kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt, died at the site,” a statement by the military indicated. Betancourt, who was taken hostage on 23 February 2002, was held by the guerrilla group for more than six years and freed together with fourteen other hostages in a bloodless military operation in July 2008. The Army highlighted the fact that the troops seized eight rifles, abundant military ammunition, and administrative and communications material, among other items, at the site of the fighting. The FARC has been engaged in armed struggle against the Colombian state for forty-six years and has around eight thousand fighters, according to official estimates. Colombian Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera recently said that the Army killed 53 FARC guerrillas in March, while 90 others were taken prisoner and 85 deserted from the rebel ranks.
A recent poll showed 85 per cent of supporters did not want the Magpies manager to stay, and those dissenting voices were given further ammo by a tepid performance at St Mary’s. Summer signing Pelle’s brace was complemented by goals from Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin as Southampton ran out deserved 4-0 winners at St Mary’s, where calls for Pardew’s head punctuated a game Newcastle owner Mike Ashley was there to see first-hand. Press Association Pelle’s second eventually came in the 19th minute, though, courtesy of his own miscued strike. The 29-year-old attempted to volley a Mike Williamson clearance but it went so wide it landed at the feet of Dusan Tadic, who ignored offside appeals to square the ball for the frontman to tap home. “We want Pardew out” soon echoed around St Mary’s, with both sets of fans chanting “you’re getting sacked in the morning”. It took 26 minutes for Newcastle to call their former goalkeeper into action and when they did Fraser Forster showed why Saints forked out £10million for his services, denying a close-range, first-time Moussa Sissoko effort. The England international also had to be alert to a fizzing Jack Colback drive as United improved towards the end of the first half, although a deflected Yoan Gouffran effort was the only chance of note they could muster. It led to boos at half-time from the vocal travelling support, who impressively put their troubles behind them to help welcome Southampton fans’ favourite Francis Benali as he ended a 21-day, 1,000-mile run for Cancer Research. The former defender managed just one league goal over more than 300 appearances for Saints so it was somewhat apt that another long-serving player would break his scoring duck. Cork scored in the recent Capital One Cup tie at Millwall but had failed to net a league goal for Saints over two spells with the club until l atching on to a deflected Steven Davis ball, rounding Krul and slotting home. In case their chanting had not got across, with 20 minutes remaining a section of Newcastle fans displayed a banner with ‘Pardew out’ scrawled on it. It was a period in which the visitors came close to scoring on several occasions, with Emmanuel Riviere and Colback somehow failing to turn home before Forster denied a Gouffran header. Florin Gardos joined fellow debutant Toby Alderweireld for the final few minutes, which saw Schneiderlin add extra gloss with a wonderful curling effort in stoppage time. The pressure on Newcastle manager Alan Pardew ratcheted up a notch at former club Southampton, where Graziano Pelle inspired Ronald Koeman’s new-look side to a dominant victory. The sportswear magnate ended speculation that he is ready to sell the club on the eve of the match, although that will only sharpen the focus on the managerial position after a defeat that leaves them in the relegation zone. The possibility of United winning their first match of the season never looked likely after a bright Southampton start in which Pelle headed home with just six minutes on the clock. The Italian soon added another from close range – his fourth in three matches in all competitions – with Cork’s first league goal for the club and a late curling effort from Schneiderlin increasing the pressure on Pardew. An angry fan had to be apprehended after running on to the pitch at the end of a game which looked to be going only one way after just 23 seconds. Attempting to clear a Fabricio Coloccini backpass, Tim Krul’s clearance struck Shane Long but, fortunately for the Newcastle goalkeeper, went wide. It was a warning shot the visitors failed to heed as, after some last-ditch challenges and a penalty appeal from Long, Saints opened the scoring after six minutes. Meeting a Ryan Bertrand cross from the left, Pelle, the man charged with replacing talisman Rickie Lambert, impressively powered a header into the top-left hand corner. The Italian was clearly keen to add to his tally and showed impressive inventiveness to hook goalwards from an acute angle, forcing an unorthodox save from Krul.