Sterling Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:STSA) ("Sterling") today announced its operating results for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2012. For the quarter, Sterling recorded net income of $20.9 million, or $0.33 per diluted common share, compared to $30.6 million, or $0.49 per diluted common share, for the quarter ended September 30, 2012, and $14.8 million, or $0.24 per diluted common share, for the quarter ended December 31, 2011. For the year ended December 31, 2012, Sterling recorded net income of $385.7 million, or $6.14 per diluted common share, compared to $39.1 million, or $0.63 per diluted common share, for the year ended December 31, 2011. The 2012 annual net income included an income tax benefit of $292.0 million associated with the release of a deferred tax asset valuation allowance.
During the fourth quarter of 2012, there were four significant items that, in the aggregate, reduced net income by $11.9 million, or $0.19 per diluted share.
1. Sterling elected to effect a partial repositioning of its balance sheet in light of the current interest rate environment and outlook by prepaying $250.0 million of repurchase agreements and selling $361.8 million of mortgage-backed securities and other investments. A prepayment penalty of $32.7 million was recorded in connection with the debt prepayment and a gain of $11.2 million was recorded in connection with the securities sales.
2. A net gain of $8.4 million was recognized as a result of the divestiture of Sterling's Montana operations in a transaction that was completed on November 30, 2012.3. A charge of $2.0 million was recorded in connection with a tentative settlement related to a previously disclosed ERISA class action complaint. 4. An income tax benefit of $3.2 million was recorded principally as the result of the aforementioned three items, which were not contemplated at the time Sterling released substantially all of its deferred tax asset valuation allowance effective June 30, 2012.