NORWICH — NBT Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ: NBTB) closed out 2011 with the second-highest annual earnings in the company’s history, but saw its earnings slip in the fourth quarter.
For the fourth quarter of 2011, NBT reported net income of $13.7 million, or 41 cents per share, down 4.9 percent from $14.4 million, or 42 cents, from a year earlier.
Those earnings beat analyst estimates by a penny and were right in line with the estimate of Damon DelMonte, an analyst in the Hartford, Conn. office of New York City–based, equity-research firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.
“A lower tax rate and share count were the main drivers of this quarter’s operating beat versus the Street’s expectation,” DelMonte wrote in his initial report regarding the quarter. “These favorable variances were somewhat offset by weaker spread income, higher provision and higher expenses, making it a mixed quarter, in our view. We note that impacting spread income and expenses was the addition of four branches that were acquired during the quarter.”
NBT’s stock opened down 29 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $23.19 on Jan. 24, the morning after the company released its financial results, before finishing the day at $23.17.
Net income for the year rose slightly from $57.4 million, or $1.66 per share, to $57.9 million, or $1.71 per share.
In spite of continued low interest rates, which weakened NBT’s net interest margins, the banking company said it produced 4.1 percent organic loan growth and 5.3 percent overall loan growth.
“In 2011, NBT once again achieved near-record financial results with net income and earnings per share at their second-highest levels in the history of the company,” NBT President and CEO Martin Dietrich said in a news release. “We’re pleased to report that the period from 2008 through 2011 is the most profitable four-year term in NBT’s history, particularly since it’s been an extremely challenging time for our industry.”
Through recent expansion efforts, Dietrich said he expects that growth to continue. In 2011, NBT expanded its presence in Vermont with branches in Williston and Essex, acquired and converted four former Legacy Banks locations in Massachusetts to NBT branches, announced plans to acquire three additional Legacy branches in New York (the deal closed Jan. 21) and one Hampshire First Bank in the second quarter of 2012, and purchased a building in Lenox, Mass. with plans to open a fifth Massachusetts branch in February.
NBT’s credit quality improved last year. The bank’s provision for loan and lease losses in 2011 was $20.7 million, down from $29.8 million a year earlier. Net charge-offs for the year totaled $20.6 million, down from $25.1 million in 2010. NBT’s fourth-quarter provision for loan and lease losses was $5.6 million, down from $6.7 million, and net charge-offs fell to $5.6 million in the fourth quarter from $7.3 million in the year-ago period.
Net interest income dropped from $202.5 million to $200.3 million for the year and remained stable at $50.5 million for the quarter.
Noninterest income fell $3.6 million, or 4.3 percent, to $80.3 million for the year due to a decrease in net securities gains and a $2.6 million decrease in service charges on deposit accounts stemming from a decrease in overdraft activity. Noninterest income for the quarter declined $2.1 million, or 9.5 percent, to $20.1 million due mainly to a $2 million decrease in net securities gains.
Noninterest expenses rose from $178.3 million in 2010 to $180.7 million as NBT increased the number of employees as it expanded. Occupancy expenses also increased $1 million during the year. Non-interest expense for the quarter rose slightly from $47.3 million to $47.4 million. Salaries and benefits increased $1.9 million and other expenses increased $1.4 million, but a $500,000 decrease in Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation premiums helped offset those increases slightly. NBT’s income-tax expense also decreased from $4.4 million to $3.9 million for the quarter.
NBT reported total assets of $5.6 billion at the end of 2011, up $259.6 million from a year earlier. Loans and leases were
$3.8 billion, up $190.2 million. Total deposits were $4.4 billion, up $232.8 million.
NBT’s board of directors declared a first-quarter dividend of 20 cents per share, payable on March 15 to shareholders of record as of March 1.
NBT Bancorp (www.nbtbancorp.com), headquartered in Norwich, is the parent company for NBT Bank, N.A., with 131 branches in New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont; Pennstar Bank, with 35 locations in northeastern Pennsylvania; EPIC Advisors, Inc., a 401(k)-plan recordkeeping firm in Rochester; and Mang Insurance Agency, LLC, based in Norwich.