Buoyed by improved asset quality, Webster Financial Corp. in Waterbury, Conn., said Friday that its third-quarter profit more than doubled from the same period last year, to $41.5 million.

The $18 billion-asset company earned $17.8 million in last year's third quarter and $33.4 million in this year's second quarter.

Its earnings per diluted share of 45 cents beat consensus analysts' estimates by a nickel, according to Thomson Reuters.

The year-over-year earnings gains were driven largely by an 80% drop in its provision for loan losses, to $5 million. In a news release, Jerry Plush, Webster's vice chairman and chief operating officer, said that classified assets at Sept. 30 were at their lowest levels since the second quarter of 2009.

Profits were also aided by moderate loan growth and a decline in its interest expense, which helped boost the company's net interest margin by nine basis points year over year, to 3.45%.

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