South Carolina’s biggest bank reports jump in earnings, stock tumbles

The fourth-quarter profit at the largest bank based in South Carolina jumped 52 percent from a year earlier, but the company’s shares tumbled on the news.

South State Corp. said Tuesday that it earned $21.2 million, or 88 cents a share, in the October-December period. That was short of the average $1.04 a share estimate among industry analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research.

The Columbia company owns South State Bank, which includes the former First Federal of Charleston and SCBT. Its shares fell 5.4 percent, or $3.47 to close at $60.87 on Tuesday, when major U.S. indexes fell less than 2 percent. Trading in the stock was heavier than normal.

For the year, net income at South State climbed 55 percent to $74.4 million from 2013.

The company also announced Tuesday it is raising its quarterly cash dividend by a penny to 23 cents. It has increased its payout to shareholders by four cents over the past year, CEO Robert Hill said in conference call with analysts.

South State is one of the largest banks operating in the Charleston region, a market that accounted for $44 million in loan growth in the last quarter. That made it the top performer for the period, Hill said.

“We continue to feel good about the momentum,” he said.

Hill described 2014 as “a transformational year” for the company, when it switched five individual banks to the South State brand and merged their back office operations to one system.

“During the year much changed, but our continued focus on our customers allowed us to attract new customer relationships while retaining and enhancing existing relationships,” Hill said in a statement.

South State has $7.8 million in total assets. It operates in 19 counties in South Carolina as well as in parts of Georgia and North Carolina.