Pinnacle stays on upward trend

Q1 results up 24% from late last year, officials expect to ramp up lending

Pinnacle Financial Partners posted a first-quarter profit of $7.2 million and said it expects stronger lending growth to help boost earnings the rest of this year.

Net income for the first three months of the year was more than triple that of a year ago and 24 percent better than Q4 numbers. Per diluted share, profits were 21 cents per share, a nickel better than analysts had been looking for.

A big factor was a drop of more than 40 percent in interest expense to $6.3 million. Also contributing to stronger profits versus a year ago was a loan loss provision of just $1 million compared to $6.1 million. Fee income rose 20 percent over early 2011 to nearly $10 million.

“While we had strong loan growth for the first quarter of 2012, we expect our loan growth to increase meaningfully during the second quarter of 2012,” said President and CEO Terry Turner. “Consistent with our plan, we continue to hire experienced relationship managers with established portfolios from other financial institutions.”

Pinnacle’s loan book grew by about 1 percent during the quarter to $3.34 billion. Total assets fell slightly to just under $4.8 billion as the company trimmed its securities portfolio by more than $50 million. Total nonperforming assets fell to $76.9 million from $87.6 million at the end of 2011 and more than $130 million a year ago.

Shares of Pinnacle (Ticker: PNFP) closed Monday trading at $16.73. They’re up slightly so far this year.