Investors Bancorp (ISBC) in Short Hills, N.J., which is poised for a second-step conversion, saw quarterly profits soar on big loan growth.

Investors reported net income of $27.5 million in the fourth quarter, a 28.5% increase from the same quarter a year prior.

A 25% jump in net loans, to $2.58 billion, was a major reason.

Earnings per share at the $15.6 billion-asset company were 24 cents, missing estimates of analysts polled by Bloomberg by less than a cent.

Net interest income rose 16.5%, to $118.3 million, primarily because of an increase of 19.9% in the average balance of interest earnings assets, to $13.88 billion.

However, net interest margin was 3.41%, a decrease of 10 basis points.

Total noninterest income fell 28.8%, to $7.5 million, because of a 71.4% decrease in gains on the sale of loans.

Total noninterest expenses increased by 20.9%, to $71.9 million, because of acquisition-related expenses.

Provision for loan losses was $9.3 million, a 45.3% decrease. Net chargeoffs fell 65.6%, to $2.1 million.

Investors acquired Roma Financial in December, adding $1.34 billion in deposits and $991 million in net loans. Then in January it completed its acquisition of Gateway Community Financial, which included four branches in New Jersey.

Investors has been prepping for a second-step conversion, recently filing registration papers to dissolve its mutual holding company and convert to a fully stock-owned company.

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