Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. bank by market value, expanded fourth-quarter earnings by 20% as the company posted more loan growth and once more reduced the total of money it sets aside to cover potential loan losses.
Reuters reports that the San Francisco-based lender earned $4.11 billion, or 73 cents a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $3.41 billion, or 61 cents a share, a year earlier. The average estimate from analysts was 72 cents per share.
Reuters also pointed out that Wells Fargo’s profit increase contrasted with an 11 percent decline in profit at Citigroup Inc, which saw its capital markets business battered by the European debt crisis.
“I’m extremely pleased with Wells Fargo’s performance in 2011 — including strong deposit and loan growth, record cross-sell and record earnings,” CEO John Stumpf said in a statement.
Wells Fargo said its average deposits rose 9% to $864.9 billion. That reflected a 3.2% jump in consumer checking accounts and a 12% rise in checking and savings deposits from last year.
The amount of loans on Wells Fargo’s books edged up 2% to $769.6 billion as both commercial and consumer lending grew. Wells Fargo is the largest consumer lender in the U.S.
The bank also benefited as more customers paid their bills on time. Wells Fargo wrote off $2.6 billion in loans as noncollectable, including $2.17 billion in consumer loans, down from $3.84 billion in the period last year. Loans considered past due and likely to default declined, ending the quarter at $25.6 billion, compared with $32.4 billion last year.
For the full year, Wells Fargo posted net income of $15.87 billion, or $2.82 per share, up from $12.36 billion, or $2.21 per share, for 2010.