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Basic banking profits powered HSBC Americas Inc. to a 15th consecutive quarter of year-to-year double-digit increases in net income, Marine Midland Bank's parent reported Tuesday.

For the three-month period ending Sept. 30, net income totaled $100.98 million, up 24.6 percent from $81 million in the third quarter of 1995.

"We're obviously very pleased with the quarter; I believe it's the first-ever $100 million quarter," said James H. Cleave, HSBC Americas' chief executive officer.

The driving force behind the huge jump was net interest income, or the money made on the difference in interest earned on assets like loans and interest paid on liabilities like deposits. For the quarter, net interest income increased a strong 11.1 percent to $249.55 million from $224.50 million.

A major portion of the net interest increase came from the contribution from HSBC Americas' second-quarter acquisition of 11 East River Savings Bank branches in metropolitan New York City.

"Generally, you look for positive contributions within a year; East River began contributing from the first month," Cleave said.

Loan growth for the quarter jumped 8.1 percent to $14.43 billion from $13.34 billion, while deposit percentage growth doubled that of loans, rising 16.4 percent to $17.23 billion from $14.8 billion one year ago.

Again, roughly $1 billion in loans came from the East River purchase, according to Cleave.

While increasing its business, HSBC Americas also continued a strong effort to hold down operating expenses. What the bank calls other operating costs, including salaries pensions and employee benefits, rose a small 2.6 percent to $173.83 million from $169.43 million in 1995.

The financial institution's provision for loan losses also fell, down 11.4 percent to $15 million from third quarter 1995's $16.94 million.

With lower expenses, HSBC Americas' cost/income ratio, its cost of doing business, improved to 53 percent from 55 percent one year ago.

"Our goal is to keep the ratio in the low 50s, between 50 and 55," Cleave said. "On the expense side, we are where we expected to be."

Through the first nine months of 1996, HSBC Americas' net income is up 26 percent to $276 million from $218.96 million, with net interest income again leading the way, climbing 6.6 percent to $706.32 million from $662.74 million in 1995.

The provision for loan losses through Sept. 30 is down a sharp 68.5 percent to $49.75 million from $158.1 million, while applicable income tax expense jumped 837 percent to $124.1 million from $13.24 million.

However, Cleave pointed out that the two numbers seem so out of sync due to the Jan. 1, 1996, acquisition of Oleifera Investments Ltd. and its $179 million real estate portfolio. The bank itself sets aside roughly $5 million per month for loan losses.

Two key profitability ratios, return on average assets and return on average common equity, jumped significantly year-to-year. ROA was 1.88 percent, up from 1.7 percent, while ROE climbed to 22.09 percent from 18.64 percent one year ago.

Cleave said in a matchup over the last several quarters with 35 similarly sized regional banks across the country, Marine Midland has consistently been ranked second, third or fourth in ROA, ROE and in the cost/income ratio.

"That's a pretty good indicator of how we're doing," he said.

Total assets at Sept. 30 climbed $2.25 billion, or 11.3 percent, to $22.16 billion from $19.91 billion, reflecting growth in Marine's retail businesses, and the acquisition in the second quarter of Hang Seng Bank's two New York City branches and the 11 East River offices.

During the recently completed quarter, HSBC Americas also announced two acquisitions that it believes will lead to future growth.

The financial institution is buying J.P. Morgan & Co.'s institutional dollar clearing business, a transaction approved by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and paying $620 million for First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Rochester.

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