published Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Banks boost first quarter earnings

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    A Regions Bank sign decorates the facade of the Tallen Building in this file photo.
    Staff file photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Two regional banks with major operations in Chattanooga posted higher first quarter profits Tuesday after cutting their write-offs from soured loans.

Regions Financial Corp., the parent company of Chattanooga's third biggest bank, gave out more mortgage loans to its customers and commercial loans to businesses in the first three months of the year, which helped the bank post more than eight times the profit it reported last year.

Regions said Tuesday it earned $145 million, or 11 cents per share, beating expectations of 8 cents a share from analysts surveyed by data provider FactSet. A year ago, Regions reported net income of $17 million, or 1 cent per share.

Regions said after selling its Morgan Keegan brokerage firm it gained regulatory approval to repay the $3.5 billion borrowed from the federal government in 2009 under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Regions is one of the last regional banks to repay the government.

Separately, Synovus Financial Corp., the parent company of Cohutta Bank in the Chattanooga area, said Tuesday it earned $21.4 million in the first quarter, reversing a loss in the same period last year. Synovus set aside less money for bad loans this year and got a boost from hefty gains from investments.

Synovus' profit amounted to 2 cents per share and compared with a loss of $93.7 million, or 12 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

The profit matched Wall Street predictions.

Regions' stock rose nearly 6 percent, or 36 cents per share, to close at $6.45 per share in Nasdaq trading on Tuesday.

Synovus rose nearly 3 percent, or 6 cents per share, to close at $2.13 per share in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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