Earnings at State Bank Financial (STBZ) in Atlanta rose 2.2% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, to $9.3 million.

Net interest income at the $2.6 billion-asset company increased half a percent from the fourth quarter of 2011, to $41.8 million. The net interest margin widened by six basis points, to 7.76%, year over year.

Noninterest income was $475,000, down from $18.8 million a year earlier, when the company recorded a $14.9 million gain on acquisitions.

Noninterest expense fell 8.8% from a year earlier, to $24.8 million. The efficiency ratio worsened to 58.57%, from 45.15% in the fourth quarter of 2011, after adjustments for taxes.

State Bank's loan book increased 41%, to $986 million, because of an uptick in lending for commercial and residential real estate.

The allowance for loan losses on non-covered loans increased 44.1% from a year earlier, to $14.7 million.

During the quarter State Bank bought Altera Payroll, a payroll services company in Macon, Ga., for an undisclosed price. State Bank also has purchased a dozen failed banks since 2009.

"I remain very pleased with how the State Bank team is executing in our two primary businesses: managing our acquired covered assets with the expiration of loss share firmly in mind, while concurrently building a dynamic banking franchise that will carry us into the future," Joe Evans, State Bank's chief executive, said in a news release. “Highlights for the quarter include successfully closing the Altera Payroll acquisition and continued solid growth in organic loans and transaction accounts."

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