Virginia Commerce Bancorp Inc. reported improved fourth-quarter profits due to a lower loan-loss provision higher prices for foreclosed properties.

Net income available to shareholders rose 65% from a year earlier, to $5.4 million. The company said in a Tuesday press release that it paid a $1.3 million divided tied to the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The fourth quarter provision fell 48.4% from a year earlier, to $3.6 million. The Arlington, Va., company's holdings of foreclosed properties fell 48% from a year earlier, to $8.9 million. The real estate market in northern Virginia and Washington improved, allowing the company to sell foreclosed inventory at higher prices. The $2.9 billion-asset company's expenses tied to losses on other real estate owned fell by $1.2 million from the fourth quarter of 2010.

In July, Peter Converse, the company's president and chief executive, said he expected "a reversal of negative growth" in the second half of 2011. The company said that its net loans at Dec. 31 rose 1.1% from a quarter earlier.

"We are cautiously optimistic about generating more meaningful loan growth going forward," Converse said in Tuesday's release.

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