published Saturday, January 21st, 2012

2 Chattanooga area banks raise profits

Chattanooga's two biggest banks reported earnings gains for the fourth quarter, as credit trends improved and losses from bad loans declined.

First Horizon, parent company of First Tennessee, saw earnings for the quarter jump to nearly $35 million, or 13 cents per share. In the same period a year ago, First Horizon lost $48 million, or 20 cents per share.

First Tennessee has gone from fighting headwinds to riding a tailwind, said B.J. Losch, chief financial officer.

"We've had a lot of change at our company over the last couple years, and to post results like this, we're very proud," he said.

For the year, the company earned $131 million, compared to a $57.8 million loss in 2010.

Keith Sanford, president of First Tennessee's southeast market, said the bank was loaning money again.

"We've got both commercial and consumers borrowing money, and we still have more to loan out," he said.

SunTrust grew its net income 33 percent in the fourth quarter to $152 million, or 28 cents per share, surpassing the $114 million it earned in 2010.

The Atlanta-based bank credited its success to higher interest income, fewer loan losses and the earlier repayment of TARP.

For the year, SunTrust earned $576 million, compared to an $87 million loss in net income available to common shareholders.

However, both banks had small declines from their third-quarter earnings.

SunTrust's earnings declined by two-thirds from 39 cents per share in the third quarter, and First Tennessee's earnings per share fell by a penny.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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