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Park Sterling reports $4 million profit

Park Sterling Corp. CEO Jim Cherry often says he wants his bank to be big enough to give its customers the financial options they want, while small enough to give them the level of service expected at a community bank.

Those aspirations have pros and cons – as was evident in Thursday’s report of the bank’s fourth quarter earnings.

The results were solid: Park Sterling reported earning $4 million for shareholders in the fourth quarter, a performance that roughly matched the bank’s record profits from the quarter before.

The profits were about three times greater than they were in the same time period a year ago. Loans in Park Sterling's metro markets, including Charlotte, grew at an annualized rate of 6 percent. Executives also touted the portfolio of loans its bankers are working to close, saying they expect double-digit loan growth in the year to come.

Cherry also said the bank is working on a new mobile banking feature that will give Park Sterling a “distinctive capability” in the tech world – competitive against even the biggest banks. He declined to give any more details, except that it was on the verge of being introduced.

But Park Sterling lost nearly $1 million in the quarter on a single loan whose performance appeared to be deteriorating. The bank took an additional $430,000 charge on a branch that had been shuttered. Both had a significant impact on the bank’s earnings.

Park Sterling has grown rapidly since it was founded in 2006. In late 2012, the bank nearly doubled in size through its purchase of Gastonia-based Citizens South. With more than $2 billion in assets, Park Sterling is the largest regional bank headquartered in Charlotte.

Cherry told analysts Thursday that he expects Park Sterling to be active in the mergers and acquisitions market in 2014. Chief Financial Officer David Gaines said the merger market has become more reasonably priced in recent months.

Dunn: 704-358-5235; Twitter: @andrew_dunn
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