CINCINNATI - Provident Financial Group said earnings plunged 97% in the fourth quarter because of lingering troubles with three large loans.

The $13.9 billion-asset company said Wednesday that it earned $1 million in the fourth quarter, or 2 cents per share, compared with $41.6 million, or 84 cents per share, in the fourth quarter last year. Net income for the year fell 35%, to $100.6 million.

Provident's management blamed the lower earnings on "unfavorable business conditions" related to three loans totaling $52 million. The company moved the loans to nonaccrual status and increased loan loss provisions in the fourth quarter 62%, to $69.3 million.

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