"Throughout 2012, First Niagara has delivered solid fundamental operating performance across all geographies enabled by strong traction with our new products and services," said Gregory W. Norwood, Chief Financial Officer. "Given the impact of a prolonged low interest rate environment, we will continue to sharpen our focus to maximize returns by optimizing the franchise and a commitment to manage expenses aggressively and create positive operating leverage."
Fourth Quarter Operating Results
In the fourth quarter of 2012, First Niagara reported non-GAAP operating net income available to common shareholders of $67.8 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, compared to $66.5 million, or $0.19 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2012 and $72.1 million, or $0.24 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Those results exclude the impacts of the previously disclosed pre-tax adjustment of $16 million to accelerate premium amortization on its Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMO) portfolio and $3.7 million in restructuring charges.
Net interest income in the fourth quarter was essentially flat to the prior quarter. Excluding the impact of a quarter-over-quarter increase in premium amortization expense, net interest margin declined 8 basis points to 3.46%, driven by the continued downward re-pricing of loans and securities. However, those impacts on net interest income were offset by the benefits of a 13% increase in average interest-earning assets.
Non-interest revenues in the fourth quarter of 2012 decreased $5.0 million from the prior quarter as a result of seasonal declines in insurance commissions and lower mortgage banking revenues.
Average commercial loans increased 11% annualized over the prior quarter, the 12th consecutive quarter of double-digit growth as strong commercial business and commercial real estate loan demand continues across the company's footprint. Average transactional deposits, which include interest-bearing checking and non-interest bearing deposit balances, increased 16% annualized from the prior quarter driven by increases in balances held by customers.