M&T Bank in Buffalo, N.Y., reported a higher quarterly profit as lower expenses offset tighter margins.

The $96.7 billion-asset bank earned $277.5 million in the fourth quarter, up 25% from a year earlier. Earnings were $1.92 per share, missing a Bloomberg analyst poll by two cents.

A decline in expenses drove the quarterly results. Noninterest expenses fell 8%, to $680.1 million, partially because of lower professional services costs.

Net interest income increased 2%, to $681.8 million. The net interest margin narrowed 46 basis points, to 3.10%.

Asset quality also improved, as the company slashed its provision by 21%, to $33 million. M&T's loan book grew 4% from a year earlier, to $66.7 billion.

Fee-based income rose about 1%, to $451.6 million.

Question marks remain about the company's pending acquisition of the $37 billion-asset Hudson City Bancorp in Paramus, N.J. The deal, which was announced in August 2012, was again delayed last month as M&T works to strengthen its anti-money-laundering controls.

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