At first glance Cardinal Financial in McLean, Va., blew away earnings expectations, rising 220% in the first quarter from the same time last year.

But the $13.7 million profit at the $3.5 billion-asset parent of Cardinal Bank reflects more the distance from its merger costs of last year, after Cardinal acquired United Financial Banking in January. Costs associated with the acquisition have subsided.

Still, operating net income, which factors out a one-time gain of $4.3 million from previously unrealized mortgage loan sales, was $9.7 million, or 137% higher than in the year before.

Cardinal's net interest income increased nearly 7% to $27.3 million after a small provision for losses. Total loans rose 15% to $2.6 billion, helping offset a 19-basis-point drop in margins.

Noninterest income doubled, to $17.6 million,, thanks in part to higher mortgage-banking and commercial-loan fees, while noninterest expense shrank 6.4% to $24.1 million as merger costs eased.

Cardinal's earnings per share of $0.42 exceeded analyst estimates by 13 cents.

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