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BancorpSouth profit jumps, loan set-aside shrinks

TUPELO — BancorpSouth is set aside less for future loan losses and made more in fees from mortgage borrowers, increasing profit in the first quarter.

Aubrey Patterson

The Tupelo firm said Monday that profit rose to $22.9 million, or 25 cents per share, in the quarter that ended March 31. The bank said that’s the most it has earned in more than two years, and much better than BancorpSouth’s year-ago loss of $500,000, or 1 cent per share.

The $13.3 billion regional bank exceeded the 17 cents per share profit predicted on average by analysts polled by FactSet.

BancorpSouth put aside only $10 million to cover future loan losses in the first quarter, compared to $19.3 million in 2011’s fourth quarter and $53.5 million a year ago. The big set-aside a year ago was the prime reason BancorpSouth lost money during 2011’s first quarter.

The $10 million didn’t refill the company’s loan loss reserve as high as it had been before, allowing more money to fall to the bottom line as profit. Chairman and CEO Aubrey Patterson said the bank was able to cut its loan-loss provision because of “additional meaningful improvement in asset quality.”

With its loan portfolio shrinking 5.5 percent over the last 12 months, Patterson said BancorpSouth is focusing on revenue from fees. The bank’s non-interest revenue rose to $72.4 million from $68.3 million a year ago and $65.3 in 2011’s fourth quarter. Mortgage fees rose to $11.4 million, more than double a year ago. Insurance commissions rose, while debit and credit card fees fell.

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