FirstMerit Earnings Flat

The company misses estimates.
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FirstMerit

(FMER)

, a diversified financial services company, said its first-quarter earnings were flat due to its restructuring strategy of reducing lower-yielding investment securities and grow higher-yielding loan portfolio.

The company earned $30 million, or 37 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $30.1 million, or 36 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 40 cents a share in the most recent quarter.

Total revenue, or net interest income and noninterest income, rose 1.6% to $131.9 million. Net interest income declined $0.1 million, or 0.14%, to $86.6 million. Analysts were expecting revenue of $135.2 million.

Net interest margin was 3.80% compared with 3.73% in the fourth quarter of 2005.

"Fee income, excluding securities gains, grew 5.37% year-over-year, with positive results from a number of initiatives developed in 2005 to boost service charges and credit card fees. First quarter operating expenses show an increase in our promotional activity that should translate into loans, deposits and higher fee income during the balance of the year," the company said.

NPAs were $72.9 million, or 1.09%, of period-end loans plus other real estate, at the end of the quarter, compared with $46.7 million, or 0.72%, a year ago.

Total assets were $10.1 billion with total deposits at $7.5 billion and total shareholders' equity of $870.6 million as on Mar.31.

The company's shares were trading at $23.58, down $0.70, or 2.9%, Thursday.

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