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BancorpSouth profits hold steady on worker buyouts

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) -- Regional bank BancorpSouth Inc. said profit in 2013's second quarter rose less than 1 percent from the same three months of 2012, as an early-retirement buyout drove up costs.

BancorpSouth posted quarterly profit of $20.8 million, or 22 cents per share Monday, up from $20.6 million or 22 cents per share in 2012's second quarter. Without a $10.9 million charge for the buyouts, earnings would have risen by 7 cents per share.

Analysts polled by FactSet had estimated 24 cents per share, on average.

BancorpSouth said it would also redeem $125 million trust preferred securities in the third quarter, using $75 million in cash and borrowing $50 million. Redeeming the securities is projected to save $9.1 million a year in interest costs, about the same yearly savings as the employee buyouts.

CEO Dan Rollins said the two moves position the bank for growth.

"Much progress was made during the second quarter toward improving our cost structure and turning our attention toward growth," Rollins said in a statement.

The company set aside $3 million for future bad loans, down from $6 million a year ago. BancorpSouth said loans increased by $97.2 million, or 1.1 percent, from the first quarter of 2013, the first time loans have grown over the most recent quarter in more than three years.

BancorpSouth's return on assets fell to 0.63 percent. That key measure of profitability has bounced around in recent quarters at the bank, and it trails statewide and national averages. In 2013's first quarter, BancorpSouth had return on assets of 0.64 percent, compared to 0.84 percent for all banks based in Mississippi and 1.12 percent for all banks nationwide.

The amount that the company collected in interest from borrowers, net of what it paid out to savers, rose to $95 million. However, the net interest margin, a measure of that spread divided by all loans, ticked down to 3.36 percent. Low interest rates have generally caused that spread, which is the bread-and-butter of bank profits, to narrow. To make up, BancorpSouth emphasized that it continues boosting noninterest revenue, such as mortgage origination fees and insurance commissions.

Based in Tupelo, the $13.2 billion bank has offices in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.