Premier Financial Bancorp Inc. in Huntington, W.Va., reported that its fourth-quarter profit rose 5% from a year earlier, to $2.4 million, as operating expenses declined.

The $1.1 billion-asset company said Tuesday that operating expenses fell 8% from a year earlier, to $8 million. The company's loan-loss provision declined almost 14% from a year earlier, to $480,000.

Noninterest income declined more than 6% from the fourth quarter of 2010, to $1.7 million, as service charges on deposit accounts fell 10% and secondary market mortgage income plunged 50%. Net interest income for the fourth quarter totaled $10.9 million, down almost 4% from a year earlier.

Premier reported that its 2011 earnings fell 25% from a year earlier, to $5.9 million, because of added expenses tied to data processing and converting to a new operating system. Net overhead costs for 2011 rose almost 8% from 2010, to $29.6 million, because of a $1.6 million increase in conversion expenses.

Robert Walker, the company's president and chief executive, said in a press release that the company would focus on reducing operating costs, increasing its customer base and growing performing assets. In February, the company said it would consolidate three of its four banks to build scale, lower compliance costs and improve its efficiency. It has previously combined five of its banks.

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