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First Financial Bancorp Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2018 Results and Dividend Increase
by First Financial Bank

Cincinnati, Ohio - January 23, 2019 - First Financial Bancorp. (Nasdaq: FFBC) (“First Financial” or the “Company”) announced financial results for the fourth quarter and full year 2018.

For the three months ended December 31, 2018, the Company reported net income of $55.0 million, or $0.56 per diluted common share. These results compare to net income of $50.7 million, or $0.51 per diluted common share, for the third quarter of 2018 and $24.8 million, or $0.40 per diluted common share, for the fourth quarter of 2017. Net income was negatively impacted by the recognition of $7.5 million of efficiency and merger related costs, which more than offset $1.6 million of gains from the redemption of off balance sheet securitizations, reducing earnings per diluted common share by $0.05 on a net basis. For the twelve months ended December 31, 2018, First Financial had earnings per diluted common share of $1.93 compared to $1.56 for the same period in 2017.

Return on average assets for the fourth quarter of 2018 was 1.59% while return on average tangible common equity was 19.63%. These compare to a return on average assets of 1.45% and return on average tangible common equity of 18.52% in the third quarter of 2018 and a return on average assets of 1.13% and a return on average tangible common equity of 13.85% in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Fourth quarter 2018 highlights include:

•After adjustments(1) for merger related and nonrecurring items:

  • Net income of $0.61 per diluted common share
  • 1.72% return on average assets
  • 21.29% return on average tangible common equity

•Net interest margin of 4.21% on a fully tax equivalent basis(1)

  • 9 basis point expansion from the linked quarter driven by higher asset yields and loan fees which outpaced increased funding costs

•Nonninterest expenses of $83.4 million, or $75.9 million as adjusted(1)

  • Efficiency ratio of 53.6% for the fourth quarter; 49.3% as adjusted(1)

•Stable loan balances

  • Strongest origination quarter of 2018
  • 10% linked quarter increase in loan origination activity offset by elevated ICRE payoffs

•Annualized quarterly increase in average deposit balances of 16%

  • Deposit growth driven by higher noninterest bearing deposits, money market accounts and brokered CD's

• Classified assets declined 5%; annualized net charge-offs increased to 29 basis points as a percentage of average loans for the quarter and were 15 basis points for the full year 2018

Archie Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer, commented, “Fourth quarter results were very strong, and we remain pleased with the operational performance of the Company. Revenue growth and increased operating leverage led to adjusted(1) earnings per share of $0.61 and substantial returns on assets and average tangible common equity while net interest margin increased 9 basis points.”

Mr. Brown continued, “Fourth quarter core banking trends were positive and loan originations were stronger than they have been all year, however elevated payoffs, particularly in ICRE (investment commercial real estate), led to a slight decline in overall loan balances. In addition to positive loan origination trends, we were particularly pleased with our ability to grow deposits during the the quarter while maintaining a pricing discipline that benefits both our clients and our shareholders.”

Mr. Brown concluded, “2018 was a year of significant change for First Financial. We are highly encouraged by the way in which the Company has come together culturally and performed financially. Successfully completing a transformational merger while producing high level returns reflects the hard work of our associates and dedication to serving the needs of our clients and shareholders. We remain confident in our ability to sustain these results and our outlook for the future continues to be very optimistic."

First Financial's Board of Directors also approved a 10% increase in the quarterly dividend to $0.22 per share, payable on March 15, 2019 to shareholders of record as of March 1, 2019.

Full detail of the Company’s fourth quarter and full year 2018 performance is provided in the accompanying financial statements and slide presentation.

Teleconference / Webcast Information

First Financial’s executive management will host a conference call to discuss the Company’s financial and operating results on Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Members of the public who would like to listen to the conference call should dial (877) 506-6873 (U.S. toll free), (855) 669-9657 (Canada toll free) or +1 (412) 380-2003 (International) (no passcode required). The number should be dialed five to ten minutes prior to the start of the conference call. The conference call will also be accessible as an audio webcast via the Investor Relations section of the Company’s website at www.bankatfirst.com. A replay of the conference call will be available beginning one hour after the completion of the live call at (877) 344-7529 (U.S. toll free), (855) 669-9658 (Canada toll free) and +1 (412) 317-0088 (International); conference number 10127430. The webcast will be archived on the Investor Relations section of the Company’s website for 12 months.

Press Release and Additional Information on Website

This press release as well as supplemental information are available to the public through the Investor Relations section of First Financial's website at www.bankatfirst.com.

Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures

This earnings release contains GAAP financial measures and Non-GAAP financial measures where management believes it to be helpful in understanding the Company’s results of operations or financial position. Where Non- GAAP financial measures are used, the comparable GAAP financial measures, as well as a reconciliation to the comparable GAAP financial measure, can be found in the section titled “Appendix: Non-GAAP to GAAP Reconciliation” in the accompanying slide presentation.

Forward-Looking Statement

Certain statements contained in this report which are not statements of historical fact constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘‘believes,’’ ‘‘anticipates,’’ “likely,” “expected,” “estimated,” ‘‘intends’’ and other similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements but are not the exclusive means of identifying such statements. Examples of forward- looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements we make about (i) our future operating or financial performance, including revenues, income or loss and earnings or loss per share, (ii) future common stock dividends, (iii) our capital structure, including future capital levels, (iv) our plans, objectives and strategies, and (v) the assumptions that underlie our forward-looking statements.

As with any forecast or projection, forward-looking statements are subject to inherent uncertainties, risks and changes in circumstances that may cause actual results to differ materially from those set forth in the forward- looking statements. Forward-looking statements are not historical facts but instead express only management’s beliefs regarding future results or events, many of which, by their nature, are inherently uncertain and outside of management’s control. It is possible that actual results and outcomes may differ, possibly materially, from the anticipated results or outcomes indicated in these forward-looking statements. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in our forward-looking statements include the following, without limitation: (i) economic, market, liquidity, credit, interest rate, operational and technological risks associated with the Company’s business; (ii) the effect of and changes in policies and laws or regulatory agencies, including the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and other legislation and regulation relating to the banking industry; (iii) management’s ability to effectively execute its business plans; (iv) mergers and acquisitions, including costs or difficulties related to the integration of acquired companies; (v) the possibility that any of the anticipated benefits of the Company’s recent merger with MainSource Financial Group, Inc. will not be realized or will not be realized within the expected time period; (vi) the effect of changes in accounting policies and practices; (vii) changes in consumer spending, borrowing and saving and changes in unemployment; (viii) changes in customers’ performance and creditworthiness; and (ix) the costs and effects of litigation and of unexpected or adverse outcomes in such litigation. Additional factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those described in our forward-looking statements can be found in our Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2017, as well as our other filings with the SEC, which are available on the SEC website at www.sec.gov.

All forward-looking statements included in this filing are made as of the date hereof and are based on information available at the time of the filing. Except as required by law, the Company does not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statement.

About First Financial Bancorp.

First Financial Bancorp. is a Cincinnati, Ohio based bank holding company. As of December 31, 2018, the Company had $14.0 billion in assets, $8.8 billion in loans, $10.1 billion in deposits and $2.1 billion in shareholders’ equity. The Company’s subsidiary, First Financial Bank, founded in 1863, provides banking and financial services products through its six lines of business: Commercial, Retail Banking, Investment Commercial Real Estate, Mortgage Banking, Commercial Finance and Wealth Management. These business units provide traditional banking services to business and retail clients. Wealth Management provides wealth planning, portfolio management, trust and estate, brokerage and retirement plan services and had approximately $2.6 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2018. The Company’s primary operating markets are located in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky where it operated 159 banking centers as of December 31, 2018, while the Commercial Finance business lends into targeted industry verticals on a nationwide basis. Additional information about the Company, including its products, services and banking locations, is available at www.bankatfirst.com.

 For full details of the release, please visit Investor Relations.

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(1) Financial information in this release that is described as “adjusted” or that is presented on a fully tax equivalent basis is non-GAAP. For details on the calculation of these non-GAAP financial measures and a reconciliation to the GAAP financial measure, see the sections titled “Use of Non-GAAP Financial Measures” in this release and “Appendix: Non-GAAP to GAAP Reconciliation” in the accompanying slide presentation.