Astoria Financial (AF) in Lake Success, N.Y., said after markets closed Wednesday that its first-quarter earnings fell 64% from the same period a year earlier, to $10 million, due to higher deposit insurance premiums, an increase in its loan-loss provision, and $3.4 million in severance costs relating to recent staff cuts.

The $17.1 billion-asset company also said that it is reducing its quarterly dividend from 13 cent to four cents in order to bring the dividend in line with recent earnings and have more capital available to support future loan growth, particularly in the robust multi-family market.

Astoria has been aggressively cutting costs in an effort it to improve its performance. It eliminated 142 positions in February and later this month will implement a freeze on all defined benefit programs. The severance costs and a 121% increase in its deposit insurance costs, to $12.7 million, contributed to an 18% increase in overall expenses.

Credit quality has improved across the board, though the company increased its loss provision by 43% year over year to reflect the growth in its commercial real estate and multi-family loan portfolio. The company originated more than $344 million of multi-family and CRE loans in the first quarter, compared to zero in the same period last year.

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