Center Financial Corp. in Los Angeles swung to a $5.7 million fourth-quarter profit from a loss of $25.2 million as credit quality showed signs of stability.

The $2.27 billion-asset company announced late Wednesday a provision for loan losses of $6 million, down 73% from a year earlier.

The lower credit costs helped the company beat analysts' estimates. The company earned 14 cents per share, three cents more than the consensus, according to Thomson Reuters.

Nonperforming assets totaled $43.1 million, or 3.04% of total assets at yearend, down 3.4% from the third quarter and down a third from a year earlier.

Troubled debt restructurings, however, rose nearly fivefold from a year earlier, to $21.3 million.

Center announced in December that it would merge with Nara Bancorp Inc., also of Los Angeles, to create the largest Korean-American bank in the country. That deal is expected to close in the second half of 2011.

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