After three consecutive quarterly losses, Virginia Commerce Bancorp Inc. announced Tuesday that it returned to profitability in the fourth quarter.

The $2.7 billion-asset company said it earned $2.9 million for common shareholders, 167% more than in the fourth quarter of 2008.

For the first three quarters of 2009 the Arlington company recorded a loss of $40.8 million, largely as a result of a roughly $80 million loan-loss provision.

It said an expanded net interest margin and lower loan-loss provisions were instrumental in its return to profitability. It had a $1.1 million provision for the quarter, down 88% from a year earlier. The net interest margin expanded 59 basis points.

Virginia Commerce also made headway in working through problem loans. Nonperforming assets fell 20.6%, to $25.4 million, from the end of the third quarter. Net chargeoffs fell 65%, to $6.1 million.

Peter A. Converse, the chief executive officer, said in a press release: "We are encouraged by our continued progress in reducing problem assets and being able to finish the year on a profitable note. … Barring any unforeseen escalation in credit deterioration, it appears that meaningful improvement in asset quality metrics will be sustainable through 2010 without the significant level of provisioning and chargeoffs incurred last year."

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