Atlantic Coast Financial Corp. in Jacksonville, Fla., reported a loss of $4 million in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $5.2 million a year earlier, as its expenses and loan-loss provision declined.

The $789 million-asset company also reiterated on Thursday that it is reviewing its strategic alternatives, which could include merging with another bank or raising additional capital. The company has now lost money in 14 consecutive quarters and its bank unit remains under an enforcement order to boost its Tier 1 leverage ratio to 7% of assets. At Dec. 30, that ratio stood at 5.83%.

Atlantic Coast first announced in November that it had hired the investment bank Stifel Nicolaus & Co. to help explore its strategic options. It needed special approval to retain an investment bank because it completed a stock sale last year and thrifts are typically barred from selling themselves within three years of a public offering.

For the year, the bank said it loss narrowed to $10.3 million, from $14.2 million in 2010.

The company's fourth-quarter loan-loss provision declined about 25%, to $5.2 million, from a year earlier. Its interest expense fell roughly 19%, to $4 million, and noninterest income totaled $6.6 million, down almost 3% from a year earlier.

Atlantic Coast's fourth-quarter net interest income slid 10%, to $5.3 million, from a year earlier because of a lower level of interest-earning assets as the company continued to shrink its balance sheet. Noninterest income totaled $2.1 million, down 22% from a year earlier.

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