PremierWest Bancorp (PRWT) in Medford, Ore., took a loss in the fourth quarter as it sought to remove dead wood from its balance sheet.

The parent of the $1.2 billion-asset PremierWest Bank announced Tuesday a quarterly loss of $7.3 million, 78% larger than its loss in the final quarter of 2011. It lost 72 cents per share, well higher than the 5 cent-per-share loss anticipated by analysts polled by Bloomberg.

The loss was led by $4.6 million of charges for foreclosure expenses and nonperforming real estate, including a settlement with a nonperforming borrower. PremierWest also took a $2.8 million charge because of an increase in estimated costs of health insurance for officers and directors.

PremierWest agreed to sell itself to AmericanWest for $16.6 million in October. AmericanWest repay the company's Troubled Asset Relief Program funds when the deal closes.

Interest income declined 17%, to $11.4 million. Loan-loss provisions declined from $3 million to zero. The net interest margin tightened to 3.85%, down 10 basis points.

Noninterest income rose 14%, to $2.7 million, thanks mainly to the sale of assets associated with a branch the bank sold earlier.

The losses partly reflect PremierWest's efforts to clean up its balance sheet. Over the past year, PremierWest has reduced its nonperforming assets by half, to $48 million, and increased its risk-based capital ratio to 14.06% from 13.03%.

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