Associated Banc-Corp (ASBC) posted a fourth-quarter profit of $47.8 million, up 2.4% from a year earlier. Its earnings per share rose 7.7% to 28 cents, missing by two cents the average estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

The $24 billion-asset company's net interest income increased 3.6% to $167 million.

"Overall we are pleased with our 2013 financial results and accomplishments. We were able to continue to grow our balance sheet, increase total revenues, modestly reduce expenses, and grow bottom line earnings," Associated President and Chief Executive Philip Flynn said in a press release Thursday. "We remain focused on delivering increased value to our shareholders."

The net interest margin tightened nine basis points to 3.23%. However, replacement of higher-cost deposits with cheaper Federal Home Loan Bank funding added three basis points to the margin. Noninterest income for the company, headquartered in Green Bay, Wisc., climbed 2.6% to $75.9 million.

Associated's total noninterest expense increased 1.8% to $179.5 million. In the fourth quarter personnel expenses increased by $3 million, including $2 million of severance costs. Business development and advertising expenses increased $2 million from the third quarter.

Associated's provision for loan losses dropped by a third, to $2 million. Net charge offs decreased 73.9% to $5.4 million.

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