Whitney Holding Corp. on Wednesday reported third- quarter earnings that were sharply below expectations.

The $5 billion-asset banking company said a merger-related charge and other expenses cut its after-tax income to $10.7 million, or 45 cents per diluted share.

Consensus earnings estimates had put Whitney's earnings at 71 cents per diluted share, according to First Call Corp., Boston.

The charge was related to Whitney's acquisitions of Louisiana National Security Bank and First National Bancorp of Greenville, La., and the acquisition of eight operating branches in Lake Charles, La.

Whitney earned $14.9 million, or 64 cents per diluted share, in last year's third quarter.

Trading in its stock was halted at 4:12 p.m. pending the announcement. Before the halt, its shares had risen 75 cents, to $41.875.

- Tania Padgett

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