Park Sterling (PSTB) in Charlotte, N.C., said it is on the hunt for bank acquisitions as it reported a record quarterly profit.

The $2 billion-asset company announced Thursday a first-quarter profit of $3.2 million, 88% higher than in the first quarter of 2012, as income from loans and fees rose.

Park Sterling "is now well positioned to pursue discussions regarding potential additional strategic partnerships," Chief Executive James Cherry said in a news release. "We remain confident in our ability to unite with attractive, like-minded partners that share Park Sterling's vision of building a full-service regional community bank across our target markets."

Net interest income was $17.7 million, up 51%, as its purchase of Citizens South Banking in Gastonia, N.C., which closed in the fourth quarter, pushed its average earning assets up by $719 million, or 71%. Net interest margin was 4.15%, 50 basis points lower than in the prior-year period.

Noninterest income increased 80%, to $3.6 million, as service charges, card income and mortgage-banking income all more than doubled. Noninterest expense rose 46%, to $16 million, because of higher employee and data-processing costs.

Park Sterling's asset quality improved, as nonperforming loans fell 22%, to $17.1 million. Provision for loan losses increased by less than $200,000, to $309,000, and net chargeoffs declined 79%, to $151,000.

Park Sterling switched to a Citrix cloud-based data network and converted former Citizens South customers to its Jack Henry Silverlake core operating platform during the quarter, it said.

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