SAN FRANCISCO - UnionBanCal Corp. Monday evening reported fourth-quarter earnings of $8.4 million, a 94% plunge from the same period last year. The company beat analystsÂ’ consensus estimates of one cent by four cents.

The San Francisco-based company blamed the large shortfall on a $250 million provision to cover credit losses that had been previously disclosed in a December release. That statement also contained guidance that the company expected to earn approximately one cent per share in the fourth quarter, that prompted most analysts to revise their estimates downward. In the year-ago quarter, the company earned $0.83 per diluted common share.

Net interest income rose 8% year-on-year, to $399.3 million in fourth quarter 2000, thanks to an increase in average earning assets and a 22 basis point improvement in the net interest margin. Net interest income fell 1.3% from the third quarter.

Fee income, on the other hand, declined 0.7% year-on-year, largely due to auto lease residual writedowns.

UnionBanCal reported nonperforming assets of $408 million, an increase of $108 million from the third quarter. The company, in which Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi is a majority owner, attributed the increase to further declines in its syndicated loan portfolio.

The company will discuss earnings in a live conference Tuesday at 11:30 am EST.

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