United Community Banks reported strong revenue and earnings gains in the first quarter thanks largely to a pair of recent acquisitions.

The Blairsville, Ga., company, with $9.8 billion of assets, said Wednesday that it earned $22.3 million in the quarter that ended March 31, up 26% from the same period year earlier.

Total revenue rose 32%, to $94 million, as net interest revenue shot up 31%, to $75.2 million. These gains were aided in part by United Community's purchase of Palmetto Bancshares in Greenville, S.C., and MoneyTree Corp. in Lenoir City, Tenn., last year.

Management has said it is interested in completing more acquisitions to help it jump over the $10 billion-asset threshold that triggers additional regulatory scrutiny, such as mandatory stress tests and caps on interchange fees. It has identified dozens of potential takeover targets and earlier this month announced it would buy the $466 million-asset Tidelands Bancshares in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Total loans increased more than 27%, to $6.1 billion with the commercial portfolio climbing 28%, to $3.5 billion.

Fee revenue totaled $18.6 million, up 19% from a year earlier. Service charges and fees increased roughly 33%, to $10.2 million, while mortgage loan and other related fees rose 19%, to $3.3 million.

United Community recorded $2.7 million in merger-related and other costs as overall total operating expenses surged 34%, to $57.9 million. Salaries and employee benefits costs increased 25%, to $33.1 million.

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