Aided by strong loan growth and improved asset quality, Hanmi Financial (HAFC) in Los Angeles said Tuesday that its first-quarter profits increased 10% from the same time last year, to $11 million.

Its earnings per share of 35 cents came in 2 cents higher than the estimates of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Net interest income was up 22% from a year earlier to, $31 million, as gross loans climbed 7.3%, to nearly $2.3 billion. Additionally, Hanmi's net interest margin improved 16 basis points year-over-year to 4.02% due to higher yielding assets and lower overall costs of funds. Furthermore, the elimination of interest payments on trust preferred securities enhanced the company's interest margins.

The $3 billion-asset bank also took a $3.3 million credit to its loan-loss provision thanks to higher loan recoveries.   

Noninterest income fell 14% year over year, to $7.2 million, due to a sharp reduction on sales of Small Business Administration loans. On Monday, the company announced that it had hired Anna Chung away from rival Wilshire Bank to "revitalize" its SBA lending program.

Noninterest expenses rose 3.3% to $19.8 million because of salary and employee benefits costs and the addition of new personnel related to Hanmi's December acquisition of Central Bancorp in Texas.

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