- Associated Press - Monday, April 21, 2014

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - Regional bank BancorpSouth Corp. saw profit rise for the third quarter in a row, jumping 37 percent in 2014’s first quarter from the same three months in 2013.

BancorpSouth posted quarterly profit Monday of $28.4 million, or 30 cents per share. That’s up from $20.8 million or 22 cents per share in 2013’s first quarter.

Analysts polled by FactSet had estimated 30 cents per share, on average.

“Our financial results continue to benefit from the daily efforts of our people to grow our company and to improve operating performance,” CEO Dan Rollins said in a statement.

BancorpSouth said that total loans rose by $110 million to $9.1 billion. That was slower than loan growth in 2013’s fourth quarter, but still represented the fourth straight quarter of increasing lending.

The bank said insurance revenue set a record at $32 million, nearly half of the bank’s overall revenue from fees and other noninterest sources. BancorpSouth continued to benefit from reduced costs after an employee buyout. It set aside nothing for future bad loans for the second straight quarter, down from $4 million in the same three months of 2013.

BancorpSouth’s return on assets rose to 0.88 percent. That key measure of profitability has risen for three straight quarters at the bank, though it still trails national averages. In 2013’s first quarter, BancorpSouth had return on assets of 0.64 percent.

The amount that the company collected in interest from borrowers, net of what it paid out to savers, was $102 million. That cornerstone of bank profits was above the year-ago level, but down slightly from the last three months of 2013.

The net interest margin, a measure of that spread divided by all loans, rose to 3.54 percent, with BancorpSouth paying out less in interest to savers.

BancorpSouth is in the process of buying Central Community Corp., the parent of Austin-based First State Bank Central Texas for $210 million in stock and cash. It’s also buying Ouachita Bancshares Corp. of Monroe, La., for $115 million in stock and cash.

Based in Tupelo, the $13.1 billion bank has offices in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.

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