Bank of the Ozarks (OZRK) of Little Rock, Ark., posted a fourth-quarter profit gain despite sliding interest income, thanks in part to an acquisition that closed late in the year.

The $4 billion-asset lender reported Wednesday after the market closed that its net income jumped 17.6% from a year earlier to $20.7 million. Per-share earnings of 59 cents beat the 55 cent average estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

The bank's quarterly profit reflects a $1.1 million gain from its Dec. 31 purchase of Genala Banc, the holding company for the $167 million-asset Citizens Bank of Geneva, Ala.

Bank of the Ozarks' interest income slipped even as asset quality improved slightly. The bank's net interest income declined 4.5% to $43.8 million. The net interest margin contracted 21 basis points, to 5.84%. Chargeoffs fell 37%, to $2.5 million, and the provision for loan losses shrunk by 42%, to $2.5 million.

Noninterest income in the fourth quarter was $18.8 million, up 45%, driven by the $2.4 million gain on the bank's purchase of Genala and higher income from Ozarks' mortgage and life insurance units.

The bank's stock was up slightly Thursday morning following the earnings announcement, to just under $35 a share.

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