Chittenden reports higher earnings

Chittenden Corporation is a slight bit smaller than it was last year, but it made a little more for its shareholders, primarily because it has been lending out more money and taking in fewer deposits, according to Thursday’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Vermont-based parent company of Ocean National Bank earned $85.5 million in 2006 ($1.83 diluted earnings per share), some $2.5 million more than the previous year. Some $22.5 million (48 cents a diluted share) of that profit came in the fourth quarter of 2006, a $700,000 increase from the same quarter in 2005.

The main reason for profitability appears to be the growth of Chittenden’s loan portfolio. Total loans increased some $210 million, to $4.7 billion. Commercial loans were up 7 percent. Other assets performed well, offsetting a slight decrease in interest spread and some $20.3 million in nonperforming assets, a 25 percent increase from the end of 2005 (though a $6 million drop in nonperforming assets from the previous quarter in 2006).

At the end of 2006, the bank had some $6.4 billion in total assets, about $40 million less than at the end of 2005, with some $5.7 billion in deposits, about $100 million less than the previous year.

The bank also announced a quarterly dividend of 20 cents per share to be paid on Feb. 9 to shareholders of record on Jan. 26, and approved a new share repurchase plan for 1 million shares. Last quarter, the company repurchased 762,500 shares. — BOB SANDERS

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