BancorpSouth saw 28% jump in earnings last quarter

TUPELO — BancorpSouth says profit in 2012′s fourth quarter rose 28 percent from the same three months of 2011, as mortgage fees remained high and the bank set aside less money for future loan losses.

The bank said yesterday it posted a quarterly profit of $17 million, or 18 cents per share, up from $13.3 million, or 16 cents per share, in 2011′s fourth quarter.

Analysts predicted 24 cents a share, on an adjusted basis, according to FactSet.

BancorpSouth said it set aside $6 million to cover future bad loans, compared to $19.3 million in the same three months of 2011.

“Results for the fourth quarter reflect yet another quarter of strong mortgage production and asset quality improvement,” said Chairman of the Board Aubrey Patterson. “Mortgage production for the quarter was $549.4 million, contributing to total mortgage lending revenue of $17.2 million. This level of production resulted in a record annual production volume of almost $2 billion for 2012.”

The bank said it also decided to sell off a large amount of foreclosed real estate, even if had to cut prices, in order to improve future profits.

The bank said profits were dragged down because the amount of interest it received from borrowers fell faster than the amount of interest that BancorpSouth paid to savers. Called interest margin compression, that problem is plaguing many banks.

BancorpSouth posted return on average assets of 0.5 percent. That key measure of bank profit was lower than most banks nationwide posted in the third quarter, according to the FDIC.

The $13.4 billion bank has offices in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

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