Sky Financial Group Inc. said that keeping loans on its books instead of selling them hurt fourth-quarter earnings, but the Bowling Green, Ohio, company expects to profit from the move over the long term.

The $8.4 billion-asset company reported Tuesday that fourth-quarter earnings fell 9% from a year earlier, to $27.7 million, or 33 cents per diluted share. For the full year, operating earnings dropped 5%, to $118.1 million, or $1.39 per diluted share.

Sky officials blamed the lower earnings on its decision to retain loans made to health-care professionals through its subsidiary, Sky Financial Solutions Inc. The company used to sell such loans to third parties but now keeps them on its books.

The company said it had expected a small decrease in earnings, and that it plans to build its loan portfolio to the point where it would earn as much from interest as Sky would get from selling it.

Sky also reported charges related to the sale of its collection agency and its move to change the names of its commercial banks to Sky Bank.

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