Southern First Bancshares Inc. in Greenville, S.C., reported Tuesday its fourth-quarter earnings fell 59% from a year earlier, to $152,000.

The $719 million-asset company cited a larger loan-loss provision: It set aside $1.5 million in the quarter, 24% more than in the year-earlier quarter.

Southern's nonperforming assets were $15.5 million, or 2.15% of total assets, up from 1.42% in the 2008 quarter.

The nonperforming assets included $11.7 million of nonperforming loans and $3.7 million of other real estate owned.

Retail deposits rose 28.9%, to $346 million.

"The increase in retail deposits allowed us to reduce our out-of-market deposits by $53.1 million," Art Seaver, the company's chief executive officer, said in a press release.

"The significant increase in retail deposits is due to our expanded presence in both the Greenville and Columbia markets with two new branch offices opened in 2008 and our Columbia regional office in August 2009," Seaver continued, according to the press release.

The company's net interest margin improved by 2 basis points from a year earlier, to 2.84%.

Southern First reported capital ratios that exceeded the regulatory minimum for a well-capitalized institution.

It reported a leverage ratio of 9.96%, a Tier 1 risk-based ratio of 12.34% and a total risk-based ratio of 13.59%.

The bank had accepted a $17.3 million investment from the Treasury Department under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

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