First Financial Holdings (SCBT) in Columbia, S.C., reported a big leap in first-quarter profits thanks largely to double-digit growth in its loan portfolio.

The $8 billion-asset company earned $15.8 million in the first quarter, up 49% from the same period a year ago. Earnings per share of 66 cents were 2 cents higher than the estimates of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

First Financial's year-over-year growth was largely driven by its $447 million purchase of First Financial Holdings, which closed in July 2013. (The company previously operated under the name SCBT Financial and assumed its new moniker after the acquisition.)

The company's net interest income was up 55% from the same period a year ago, to $83.3 million. Its organic loan portfolio expanded 14%, to $3 billion, fueled by growth in commercial real estate, commercial and industrial, consumer real estate and consumer loans. Meanwhile, First Financial's acquired loan portfolio grew by 169%, to $2.6 billion. Its net interest margin climbed 5 basis points, to 4.99%.

Noninterest income more than doubled, to $20.6 million, as First Financial benefited from big increases in service charges and trust and investment services income. Noninterest expense rose 66% as operating costs rose across the board.

First Financial cut its loan-loss provision by 20%, to $849,000. Net charge-offs fell by 90%, to $332,000.

First Financial announced in February that it is planning yet another name change. It will rebrand as South State Corp. over the summer.

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