Webster Financial in Waterbury, Conn., posted higher profits in the fourth quarter, propelled by strong loan demand.

The $22.5 billion-asset holding company for Webster Bank saw its net income increase roughly 18% from a year earlier, to $48.4 million. Earnings per share of 53 cents met the estimates of analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Net interest income grew 4%, to $160.6 million. This increase was boosted by growth in all loan segments, including a 14% rise in its commercial-loan portfolio, Webster's largest loan category. Total loans rose 9.5%, to $13.9 billion. Net interest margin compressed 10 basis points, to 3.17%.

Noninterest income rose 21%, to $53.8 million, due to a $1.1 million gain on investment securities as well as loan related fees increasing by 41%.

Noninterest expenses grew 3%, to $130.3 million, which included a one-time litigation cost of $1.4 million.

Compensation and benefits were 4% higher, and the company installed new technology for its HSA Bank division, which acquired the JPMorgan's health-savings account business for an undisclosed price at the beginning of this year.

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