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First Mariner Bancorp reports third quarterly profit in a row

First Mariner Bancorp reported Wednesday that it earned $7.9 million in the quarter ended in September, the third quarter in a row that the struggling parent of 1st Mariner Bank reported a profit.

On a per-share basis, the Baltimore-based holding company earned 42 cents for the quarter.

First Mariner experienced the opposite result for the corresponding quarter a year ago, when it lost $7.9 million, or 42 cents a share.

For the first nine months of its fiscal year, the company earned $15.4 million, or 82 cents per share, compared with a loss of $26.7 million last year.

The company credited its improved performance to a record number of mortgage originations in the July-to-September period but noted that it also benefited from a reduction in expenses and charge-offs.

"The numbers at first blush look good, but there still is the question of the sustainability of the earnings," banking analyst Bert Ely said.

Like other banks, 1st Mariner has benefited from a refinancing boom whose duration is uncertain, Ely said.

First Mariner has been under regulatory orders to improve its capital levels.

"Our improved profitability has increased our regulatory capital ratios, but these ratios remain below the levels required by regulatory orders and we continue to work diligently to increase capital to levels required in our regulatory agreements," CEO Mark A. Keidel said in a statement.

First Mariner's assets at the end of September reached $1.29 billion, up 8 percent from a year earlier. Deposits rose to $1.11 billion, up 7 percent from a year earlier. Money set aside for potential losses in the quarter totaled $12.1 million, down 14 percent from last year.

First Mariner's stock rose 7 cents to close Wednesday at 70 cents a share.


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