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Renasant profit rises as interest margin widens

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) -- Regional bank Renasant Corp. said profit in 2012's fourth quarter rose 26 percent from the same three months of 2011, as the bank set aside less to cover bad loans and paid savers less interest.

Renasant said Tuesday it made a quarterly profit of $7.28 million, or 29 cents per share, up from $5.79 million, or 23 cents per share, in 2011's fourth quarter. It was the fourth straight quarter of rising profit.

Analysts polled by FactSet had estimated 28 cents per share, on average.

For the year, profit rose to $26.6 million, up 4 percent from $25.6 million in 2011. That increase came despite the fact that the company booked more than $9 million in acquisition-related gains in 2011, compared to no such boost in 2012.

Renasant said net interest income, the spread between interest charged on loans and the interest paid to savers, increased. The company achieved that goal even though interest received from loans fell.

"Despite these pressures, we have grown net interest income and net interest margin on both a quarterly and year-over-year basis," Chairman and CEO E. Robinson McGraw said in a statement. "As we continue our efforts to grow loans and improve our funding mix, we believe we will be able to increase net interest income while minimizing net interest margin compression."

Renasant said non-interest income also increased and loans increased for the sixth straight quarter.

Based in Tupelo, the $4.2 billion bank has offices in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.