CIT Group reported a loss in the fourth quarter, primarily due to a charge tied to its equipment finance business, but the New York company's core lending business continued to expand under CEO Ellen Alemany.

The net loss at the $49 billion-asset company was $93 million, or 74 cents per share. In the year-earlier period CIT reported a loss of $426 million, or $5.65 per share.

Results from the quarter included numerous one-time items. The largest was a $222 million goodwill impairment charge that was mostly related to equipment finance in its commercial banking segment. CIT also booked a $20 million restructuring charge; a $12 million net benefit associated with the new federal tax law; and a $10 million benefit from the impact of the tax law on its European rail business.

CIT CEO Ellen Alemany.
CIT Chairman and CEO Ellen Alemany attributed the improved core results to lower expenses and an expansion of commercial loans and leases.

Excluding the one-time items, net income was $130 million, or 99 cents per share, which was 23 cents better than the mean estimate of analysts compiled by FactSet Research Systems. That was a 4% improvement over the results from 2016 when one-time items were removed from the year-earlier period’s results.

Alemany attributed the improved core results to lower expenses and an expansion of commercial loans and leases. Loans and leases rose 1% to $38 billion, primarily on higher origination volume in commercial banking.

“We achieved a number of milestones in 2017 and entered this year as a simpler and stronger company that is positioned for growth,” Alemany said in a news release. “We addressed noncore assets and legacy issues, reduced operating expenses, strengthened our funding profile, and expanded our business footprint in key markets.”

Net finance revenue fell 5% to $399 million on lower purchase accounting accretion and lower yields from CIT’s railroad business.

Noninterest income swung to a $137 million gain from a $118 million loss. The 2017 quarter included higher returns from bank-owned life insurance and an increase in capital-markets fees. The loss in the fourth quarter of 2016 resulted from higher expenses related to the sale of certain businesses.

Noninterest expenses dropped 20% to $561 million on lower professional fees and technology expenses.

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