Chemical Financial Corp. (CHFC) in Midland, Mich., said Monday that its first-quarter net income rose 5% from a year earlier, to $13.8 million, thanks largely to a double-digit increase in loans and improved credit quality.

However, its earnings per share of 46 cents came in 2 cents lower than the estimates of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Chemical's net interest income was $49.8 million, a 4% increase from the first quarter of 2013. The increase was primarily driven by organic loan growth. Chemical's loan portfolio climbed 13.6%, to $4.8 billion. Loans increased across all major categories as the economy improved and Chemical expanded its market share. The company's net interest margin ticked down 1 basis point, to 3.53%.

Noninterest income fell 15%, to $13.7 million. Chemical attributed the downturn to lower mortgage banking and title insurance revenue, along with a dip in income from service charges and deposit account fees. The company's chief executive and president, David Ramaker, attributed the slowdown in customer activity to "an exceptionally cold and snowy winter across Michigan," according to a Monday press release.

Chemical's operating expenses rose 6%, to $42.2 million, because of higher employee compensation and occupancy expenses. These increases were partially offset by lower credit-related costs.

Improved loan quality allowed Chemical to slash its loan-loss provision by 47%, to $1.6 million. Net chargeoffs also plummeted 53%, to $4.7 million.

Chemical announced in March plans to acquire Northwestern Bancorp in Traverse City, Mich., for $120 million. The company will gain 25 branches across 11 Michigan counties and $758 million in deposits in the deal, Ramaker said in the press release.

Chemical's shares were down 2.2% in late trading Monday, to $30.23.

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