Independent Bank in Rockland, Mass., reported higher quarterly profits, on lower expenses and revenue increases.

The $6.4 billion-asset company's fourth-quarter earnings rose 51%, to $16 million, compared to a year earlier. Earnings per share were 66 cents, falling one penny short of a Bloomberg analyst poll.

The results come as Independent — the parent company of Rockland Trust — prepares to complete its acquisition of the $600 million-asset Peoples Federal Bancshares. That deal is expected to close by March 31.

Independent's operating expenses fell 7%, to $44.4 million. The decline was due, in large part, to lower merger-related costs from the company's purchase of the $244 million-asset Mayflower Cooperative a year earlier.

Net interest income rose 6%, to $49.8 million. Total loans grew 5%, to $5 billion. The net interest margin fell 3 basis points, to 3.42%.

An uptick in fee-based income also boosted profits, rising 6%, to $18.5 million.

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