BancorpSouth rebounds further into black, cites decrease in non-performing loans

TUPELO — A balance sheet that a significant decline in provision for credit losses helped Tupelo-based regional bank BancorpSouth achieve fourth quarter net income of $15.8 million, or $0.19 per diluted share.

This marked the second consecutive quarter of earnings improvement over the prior quarter as well as the bank’s best quarterly earnings performance for 2010.

In the same quarter of 2009, BancorpSouth had a net loss of $2.1 million, or 3 cents a share. The regional bank company operates in eight states and is the largest bank with headquarters in Mississippi

The lending side has been BancorpSouth’s biggest challenge and had caused it to see several quarters of losses before a turnaround that began in the third quarter of 2010.

Improvement continued in the fourth quarter. “We experienced a 3.7 percent decline in non-performing loans, 30-89 day past due loans continued to decline, and we saw a decline in the provision for credit losses as required reserves for impaired loans declined and levels of adversely classified loans decreased,” said Aubrey Patterson, longtime chairman and CEO, in a press statement.

Patterson attributed the quarter quarter’s movement into the black to a 30.5 percent decline in the provision for credit losses. The provision dropped to $43.3 million for the fourth quarter from $62.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2009.

In addition, non-interest revenue increased $9.5 million, or 14.7 percent, for the fourth quarter of 2010 from the fourth quarter of 2009, the bank said.

Mortgage lending revenue, excluding the fair value adjustments to the Company’s mortgage servicing rights (MSRs), increased 32.7 percent for the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to the same quarter of 2009, $9.2 million versus $7.0 million, respectively.

Patterson attributed the decline in non-performing loans and leases to a $17.5 million decrease in non-accrual construction, acquisition and development (CAD) loans. Non-performing loans dropped to $394.4 million in 4Q from $409.4 million in the third quarter of 2010.

Patterson noted that as in previous quarters, BancorpSouth’s, non-performing loans remain concentrated in the troubled real estate markets of Alabama, Nashville and Greater Memphis.

He called the improvements “a step in the right direction,” but emphasized lots of work remains to return the bank to return BancorpSouth to “a more normalized level of financial performance.”

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