Synovus Financial in Columbus, Ga., posted higher quarterly earnings as its loan-loss provision continued to decline.

The $27.6 billion-asset company said Tuesday that its first-quarter profit rose 12% from a year earlier, to $51.4 million. Earnings per share of 38 cents rose more than 15%.

The provision fell almost 54%, to $4.4 million. Synovus said that there continued to be "broad-based improvement in credit quality." Nonperforming loans, excluding loans held for sale, decreased almost 50%, to $194.2 million.

Net interest income increased more than 1%, to $203.3 million. Net loans increased 5%, to $20.9 billion, though the net interest margin compressed by 11 basis points, to 3.28%.

Noninterest income fell roughly 6%, to $65.9 million, as investment securities gains dropped more than 45%, to $725,000.

Noninterest expense dropped almost 3%, to $178.9 million. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. insurance and other regulatory fees totaled roughly $7 million, down 28%, and professional fees were $5.6 million, a 27% decline.

"Growth in average loans and core deposits, continued improvement in credit quality, and a disciplined focus on expense management contributed to a solid first quarter," Kessel Stelling, Synovus' chairman and chief executive, said in a press release. "Investments in key talent as well as new and existing business lines continue to pay dividends as evidenced by revenue growth in mortgage banking, brokerage, and SBA lending."

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