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Mercantile Bankshares Profits Rise

It beats estimates.

Mercantile Bankshares

(MRBK) - Get Meridian Corporation Report

said fourth-quarter earnings rose 24% from a year ago, topping estimates.

The bank company earned $74.9 million, or 90 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $60.6 million, or 76 cents a share, last year. Analysts were forecasting 86 cents a share in the latest quarter.

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Net interest income for the quarter rose 13.0% to $162.4 million, primarily due to strong loan growth. The net interest margin increased two basis points from the third quarter of 2005 and remained unchanged at 4.43% compared to fourth quarter of 2004.

Average loans rose 14% from a year ago to $11.5 billion in the fourth quarter, primarily due to a rise in construction, consumer and commercial real estate lending. Total deposits averaged $11.9 billion for the fourth quarter of 2005, up 11.4% from $10.7 billion for the same period last year.

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