By Katie Byard
Beacon Journal business writer
FirstMerit Corp. said Tuesday that its profit for the fourth quarter jumped.
The Akron banking company benefited from a greatly expanded balance sheet, with its purchase of Citizens Republic Bancorp of Michigan, and an increase in deposits and loans.
Profit for the fourth quarter rose to $57.2 million, up from $38.2 million for the year-ago quarter. Meanwhile, earnings per share declined to 33 cents a share from 35 cents a year ago.
Chairman, President and CEO Paul Greig said in a conference call with analysts that FirstMerit plans to close 26 branches during the first half of this year to achieve cost savings from the acquisition of Citizens. Greig said branches will be consolidated with others.
Terrence Bichsel, FirstMerit’s chief financial officer, told analysts that the branches to be closed are “a blend of” former Citizens locations and FirstMerit sites. He declined to talk about which branches have been targeted, saying “we have not notified our employees and really discussed internally which branches have been identified.”
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had anticipated, on average, earnings of 36 cents a share. Such estimates usually exclude special items.
Results for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2013, included $6 million of pre-tax expenses related to the purchase of Citizens, headquartered in Flint, Mich.
FirstMerit Corp. (Nasdaq: FMER) roughly doubled its size in April 2013 with its $1.3 billion acquisition of Citizens, adding branches in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Loans — not including Citizens Republic — grew by $175 million, or 1.24 percent, from the prior quarter. Deposits climbed by $230.5 million, or 1.38 percent, from the third quarter.
Employment decreased 2 percent to 4,570 compared with the third quarter, when employment, including workers from Citizens Republic, stood at 4,666, according to statements.
As of last fall, about 2,000 employees worked in downtown Akron headquarters operations, according to information obtained by the Beacon Journal. That included workers in the FirstMerit Tower on Main Street; Cascade III, an adjacent building; and an operations center near the Akron Innerbelt.
For all of 2013, profits were $177 million, up from $134 million the prior year.
FirstMerit’s total assets as of Dec. 31 were $23.9 billion, a decrease of $225.7 million, or 0.9 percent compared with Sept. 30, 2013, and an increase of $9 billion, or 60.3 percent, compared with Dec. 31, 2012, before the purchase of Citizens Republic.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.