UNION, N.J., April 25, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Center Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq:CNBC) (the "Corporation", or "Center"), parent company of Union Center National Bank ("UCNB" or the "Bank"), reported operating results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2013. Net income available to common stockholders amounted to $4.9 million, or $0.30 per fully diluted common share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2013, an increase of $778,000 or approximately 19 percent as compared with net income available to common stockholders of $4.1 million, or $0.25 per fully diluted common share, for the quarter ended March 31, 2012. "Our first quarter operating performance remained strong with a continued improvement in our asset quality profile. We continued to move forward with momentum in expanding our presence in key markets with the announcement of our new Princeton office, our first location in Mercer County. This continues our goal of expanding our presence and visibility in markets we are drawing business from, allowing us to solidify and expand our service relationships. These types of actions, supported by our core earnings performance and strategic growth, create incremental shareholder value," said Anthony C. Weagley, President & Chief Executive Officer of Union Center National Bank. Mr. Weagley added: "We are pleased with this quarter's earnings and believe that our sequential earnings performance demonstrates the Corporation's commitment to achieving meaningful growth in earnings performance -- an essential component of providing consistent and favorable long-term returns to our shareholders. Margins were relatively stable and are poised for an increase. We were challenged this quarter by the level of payoffs that we experienced, which dampened the solid new loan growth that was achieved. Nevertheless, the sequential growth that we have been experiencing in loans has enabled us to buck the current industry trends of soft loan growth across the industry, thanks to our solid pipelines and core loan growth. Small businesses lending remains strong despite the continued uncertainty about the economic recovery and broader fiscal uncertainty. Our current targeted net growth for the second quarter will achieve our year-on-year growth projection."