BancorpSouth (BXS) in Tupelo, Miss., reported higher quarterly profit fueled by acquisitions and improved operating performance.

The $13 billion-asset company's first-quarter earnings rose 37% from a year earlier, to $28.4 million.

Net interest income increased by 3.5%, to $101.5 million. Total loans rose 6%, to $9.1 billion and the net interest margin widened by 17 basis points, to 3.54%.

Loan growth combined with "the repricing of high-cost time deposits," allowed BancorpSouth to maintain its margin "at a relatively stable level," Dan Rollins, the company's chief executive, said in a press release Monday.

BancorpSouth also announced two mergers during the quarter, agreeing to buy Ouachita Bancshares in Monroe, La., and Central Community in Temple, Texas. "Both of these transactions will allow us to better leverage our existing back office and support structure," Rollins said.

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