Synovus Financial (SNV) tripled profits thanks partly to broad loan growth and recent branch sales.

The Columbus, Ga., company reported earnings of $45.9 million in the first quarter, up from $14.8 million.

A one-time item contributed to the large increase: Synovus deducted nearly $15 million in dividends and the accretion of discounts on preferred stock from earnings in the first quarter of 2013. Even excluding that item, Synovus increased earnings 55% year over year.

Earnings per share of 5 cents were on par with the estimates of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

The $26.4 billion-asset company's net loans grew by 5%, to $19.9 billion. Net interest income bumped up 0.4%, to $200.5 million, driven by growth in commercial and industrial and consumer loans. But its net interest margin fell 4 basis points, to 3.39%.

Synovus' noninterest income rose 8.4%, to $70.2 million. The company benefited from a $5.8 million net gain on the sale of six Memphis branches to Iberiabank Corp. (IBKC) and a $3.1 million gain on a branch property sale. Details of the latter transaction were not included in the quarterly report. These sales helped offset a 49% decrease in mortgage banking income.

Noninterest expenses climbed 1%, to $184.2 million. The uptick was driven in part by $8.6 million in restructuring charges.

Improved credit quality prompted Synovus to hack its loan-loss provision by 73%, to $9.5 million. Net chargeoffs fell 64%, to $15.2 million.

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