Shares of Cathay General Bancorp (CATY) soared Wednesday after the Los Angeles company reported a nearly 20% increase in its third-quarter profit.

Late Tuesday, the $10.6 billion-asset Cathay reported net income of $26.2 million, up 19.6% from a year earlier as lending grew and credit quality improved.

Earnings per share climbed to 33 cents, up 17.8% from the third quarter of 2012. For the first nine months of the year, the company earned $76.7 million, 27.6% higher than a year earlier.

Cathay's shares were up 9% Wednesday morning, to $18.45.

Cathay's net interest income rose 1.8%, to $80.4 million, from a year earlier. Noninterest income fell 7.1%, to $15.6 million, year over year. Service charges on deposit accounts remained at $1.3 million, roughly unchanged from a year ago. Noninterest expense totaled $47.8 million, down 1% from a year earlier.

The company recorded total loans of $7 billion, up roughly 3% from Dec. 31. Commercial loans totaled $2 billion, an 11% increase since Dec. 31. Residential mortgages totaled roughly $1 billion, up 10% since the end of last year.

Nonperforming assets totaled $155.5 million, down 48.2% year over year. The provision for loan losses fell 11.8%, to $184.4 million, from the same period a year earlier. The company had a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 17.08%, as of Sept. 30.

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