Bank of Hawaii in Honolulu said Monday that its first-quarter profit increased 18.3%, to $50.2 million, from a year earlier thanks to strong loan growth, improved credit quality and a hefty gain on sales of its Visa shares.

Earnings per share came in at $1.16, though Sandler O’Neill said in a research note that, excluding the sale of Visa shares, the $15.7 billion-asset company earned 94 cents per share, or a penny better than Sandler's estimates.

Net interest income rose 6.4% to $106 million, as the bank reported double-digit gains in both consumer and commercial loan balances year over year. Consumer growth was fueled largely by strong demand for home equity and car loans while commercial loan growth was driven largely by a 14% increase in commercial mortgages. In all, loan and lease balances increase 12.4% year over year, to $8.1 billion.

Loan growth was also aided by a negative provision for credit losses of $2 million resulting from the full recovery of loans previously charged off to a commercial client in Guam. Bank of Hawaii did not record a loan-loss provision in last year’s first quarter.

Income from fees grew 7.4% to $56.2 million. The increase included a net gain of $11.2 million from the sale of 100,000 Visa class B shares and net gains of $1.9 million related to sales of leased assets.

The bank’s total deposits increased 3.9% to $13.4 billion gains in both consumer and commercial deposits more than offset a decline in public deposits.

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