PacWest Bancorp (PACW) in Los Angeles posted strong quarterly earnings to end a year marked by aggressive acquisitions.

The $5.5 billion-asset company's fourth-quarter earnings rose 32% from a year earlier, to $19.9 million, or 54 cents a share.

PacWest's net interest income rose 9% from a year earlier, to $69.6 million. The bank recorded a $4.3 million credit to its allowance for loan losses. Its net interest margin expanded 49 basis points from a year earlier, to 5.49%.

Noninterest income fell 75% from a year earlier, to $2 million, due in part to a loss-share expense of $6 million tied to past acquisitions of failed banks. The company also booked $1.2 million in securities gains in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Backed by private equity, PacWest was an active buyer last year. Its 2012 acquisitions of Pacific Western Equipment Finance, Celtic Capital and American Perspective Bank added $3.7 million in net income to the company's fourth-quarter results, Matt Wagner, the company's chief executive, said in a press release. In November, PacWest struck a deal to buy First California Financial (FCAL) for $231 million.

PacWest's stock was slightly up in Wednesday morning's trading, to just above $26 per share.

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