BATON ROUGE, La. - Premier Bancorp on Wednesday said it earned $17.6 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 1993, a 39% increase over net income of $12.6 million in the third quarter of 1992.

The company said the primary reason for the improvement was improved asset quality, which permitted it to transfer $5.1 million from its loan loss allowance to its bottom line. Premier, which ended the quarter with $3.8 billion of assets, also recorded a "negative provision" for real estate write-downs of $700,000.

On an earnings-per-share basis, Premier earned 63 cents, up from 44 cents.

Also contributing to the earnings increase were pins in net interest income and in noninterest income from increased activity in mortgage lending and trust and investment services.

Offsetting the positive factors was an increase in income tax expense, reflecting higher profits and an accounting change.

The company's earnings translate to a 1.83% return on average assets and a 22.85% return on average common stock- holder's equity.

Separately, Premier said it signed a contract with Coopers & Lybrand to assist in a "reengineering effort to improve the company's operating efficiency."

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