Mercantile Bank in Grand Rapids, Mich., posted higher earnings in its first full quarter after buying Firstbank in Alma, Mich.

The $2.9 billion-asset company's third-quarter earnings more than tripled from the second quarter, which included upfront merger-related expenses, and rose 72% from a year earlier, to $5.9 million.

Net interest income increased 67% from the second quarter and more than doubled from a year earlier, to $26 million. Total loans fell slightly from the second quarter by nearly doubled from a year earlier, to $2.1 billion, reflecting the Firstbank deal. And the net interest margin widened by 33 basis points from the second quarter and 19 basis points from a year earlier, to 3.95%.

Mercantile has already booked another $20 million in new credits since Sept. 30, Charles Christmas, the company's chief financial officer, said during a conference call Tuesday to discuss quarterly results. Robert Kaminski Jr., Mercantile's chief operating officer, added that the company's pipeline includes another $148 million in commercial construction-and-development loans that should be funded over the next 18 months.

Noninterest expenses rose 20% from the second quarter and more than doubled from a year earlier, to $20.7 million.

Mercantile, which incurred about $5 million in pretax merger-related expenses in the first nine months of this year, expects to record another $400,000 in costs tied to Firstbank during the fourth quarter, Christmas said. He added that the company will have some "nominal" merger-related costs through the middle of next year.

Nonperforming assets totaled $8.7 million, or 0.3% of total assets, at Sept. 30, and the company recorded its seventh straight negative loan-loss provision. That trend should continue into 2015, though the size of the negative provisions should "near zero over future quarters, Christmas said.

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