BBCN Bancorp Inc., the Los Angeles company formed after Center Financial Corp. and Nara Bancorp Inc. merged, said Wednesday that fourth-quarter earnings fell 42% from the same period a year earlier due primarily to expenses related to the merger.

The earnings were calculated using standalone results of the former Nara and one month of combined operations. The merger closed on Nov. 30. The prior year's numbers reflect Nara's results only.

The $5.2 billion-asset BBCN recorded $11.5 million in special expenses in the quarter, including a $6.4 million charge related to the prepayment of Federal Home Loan Bank advances. The company also paid $3.2 million in merger-related expenses and $1.9 million in post-merger provision expense for acquired Center loans that matured and were refinanced in December.

Fourth-quarter noninterest expense jumped 82%, to $31.8 million, from a year earlier. BBCN's quarterly noninterest income totaled $6.7 million, up 56% from a year earlier, because of gains on the sale of securities available for sale.

The company's fourth-quarter net interest income climbed 41%, to $40.6 million, from a year earlier. This increase is primarily attributable to a higher level of interest earning assets following the merger. The company's fourth-quarter net interest margin rose 55 basis points to 4.52% because of a reduction in the cost of time deposits and interest-bearing demand deposits.

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