First Financial Bankshares in Abilene, Texas reported higher third-quarter profits than a year earlier, driven by strong performance from its loan portfolio.

The $5.6 billion-asset bank said in a press release Thursday that its net income was $23.4 million, or 20% higher than last year. Diluted earnings were 36 cents per share, in line with the average estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Returns from the bank's lending portfolio drove the third-quarter results. Net interest income climbed 7% from last year, to $48.9 million. Total loans increased 8.6%, to $2.8 billion.

The net interest margin tightened 8 basis points, to 4.18%.

First Financial also trimmed operating expenses by 4.2% from a year earlier, to $34 million. The bank attributed the decline to the termination of contracts from its June 2013 acquisition of the $438 million-asset Orange Savings Bank.

Fee income climbed 1.5%, to $17.3 million, mainly from ATM and trust fees.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.