South State reported higher second quarter earnings compared to last year, as the Columbia, S.C., company expanded through the combination of SCBT and First Financial Holdings.

The $7.9 billion-asset bank's profits were $17.9 million. Operating earnings were 92 cents per share, beating an estimate of analysts polled by Bloomberg by two cents. Excluding merger expenses and including dividends, its earnings were 74 cents per share.

South State attributed the improvement to higher fee income, lower expenses and the elimination of its preferred stock dividend.

South State was created when SCBT acquired First Financial Holdings, in Charleston, S.C., for $447 million. The deal closed in July 2013 and the new company adopted the name South State. Second-quarter results for this year cover both companies; the year-earlier figures reflect only SCBT.

Net income from interest-bearing assets rose 46%, to $81 million. The net interest margin fell by 26 basis points to 4.75%.

Noninterest income rose to $24.4 million, in part because of a reduction in negative accretion on the indemnification asset. Mortgage banking, debit card services and trust and investment services all improved.

Noninterest expense rose to $75.9 million. That figure includes $5.2 million for merger-related expenses and $1.3 million for rebranding expenses.

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