First Niagara Financial Corp. said Monday that its first-quarter earnings rose 51.6%, to $32.6 million.

The Buffalo company reported assets of $15 billion as of March 31, though its acquisition of Harleysville National Corp. on April 9 boosted assets to $20 billion, according to a press release.

First Niagara's provision for loan losses rose 49% year over year, to $13.1 million. The fourth-quarter provision was $11 million.

Net loan chargeoffs totaled $12 million, compared with $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, primarily as a result of one loan that was liquidated after having been in nonaccrual status for the past two quarters.

Nonperforming assets stood at $84.7 million on March 31, up 56.8% from a year earlier. This was primarily attributed to the addition of two commercial loans, the company said.

Deposits rose 58%, commercial loan balances 15% and capital levels at the company's thrift unit remained strong. As of March 31 it had a Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of 17.5%, a total risk-based capital ratio of 18.6% and a leverage ratio of 10.1%.

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