Susquehanna Bancshares Inc. in Lititz, Pa., reported Wednesday that its fourth-quarter earnings nearly doubled from a year earlier, to $19.1 million, on improvements in areas such as lending, fee income and a reduction of problem assets.

At 12 cents a share, the results topped the average analysts’ estimate by a penny, according to Thomson Reuters.

Net interest income rose 8.1% from a year earlier, to $115.2 million. Noninterest income jumped 79% from the fourth quarter of 2010, to $71.3 million. Credit quality improved; the loan-loss provision fell 37% from a year earlier, to $22 million.

The main negative was noninterest expense, which increased 69% from a year earlier, to $162.4 million. The expenses included a $50 million item that the company described as a “loss on extinguishment of debt.”

Susquehanna has said that it expects to complete its purchase of $2.5 billion-asset Tower Bancorp of Harrisburg, Pa., on Feb. 17. The deal will boost Susquehanna’s assets to more than $16 billion and give it about 260 branches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia.

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