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Merger costs weigh down First Niagara profits, matching analyst forecasts

First Niagara Financial Group’s fourth-quarter profits matched analyst forecasts even though the costs of the bank’s impending merger with KeyCorp and restructuring efforts caused an 30 percent drop in earnings.

First Niagara said it earned $43.3 million, or 12 cents per share, during the final three months of last year, down from $61.5 million, or 17 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding $14 million in merger-related expenses and $3 million in restructuring costs, the bank’s operating profits improved by 4 percent to $55.3 million, or 15 cents per share, matching analyst forecasts. The bank’s operating earnings a year ago were $53.2 million, or 15 cents per share.