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Published: Friday, 1/17/2003

Earnings up 6% at Sky Financial

BOWLING GREEN - Sky Financial Group, Inc., parent company of Sky Bank, yesterday reported that its profit increased 6 percent in 2002, to $127.8 million, or $1.52 per share, from $120.7 million, or $1.45 per share, for 2001.

The area's largest locally-based bank holding company also reported a profit of $33.9 million, or 39 cents per share, reported in the fourth quarter of last year, versus $31.9 million, or 39 cents per share, for the fourth quarter of 2001.

For the year, Sky's net interest income was $361.7 million, up 11 percent from the $325.6 million reported for 2001. In the fourth quarter, net interest income was $86 million, up 14 percent from the $75.7 million in the year-end quarter in 2001.

“It was a very good year for Sky,” said Kevin Thompson, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Sky Financial. “We had aggressive earning targets out there ... which we successfully achieved, as well as other key strategic items that are going to serve us well.”

Mr. Thompson said the bank added a new company-wide computer system, and has benefited from the acquisition last January of insurance firm Celaris Group, of Bowling Green, and Three Rivers Bancorp, of suburban Pittsburgh, an acquisition finished in Octo- ber.

Looking ahead, the acquisition of Metropolitan Financial Corp. of Highland Hills, Ohio, is expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year. The combined companies will have approximately $12.5 billion in total assets, $8.7 billion in total deposits, and $875 million in shareholders' equity.

In the fourth quarter, Sky added $5.5 million to its reserves for credit losses, up from $9.7 million in the third quarter and from the $10.3 million in fourth-quarter 2001. The increased provision was due to higher net charge-offs and growth in the loan portfolio. For the entire year, Sky reserved $43.6 million for credit losses, up nearly 26 percent from the $34.6 million set aside in 2001.

Non-performing loans for the fourth-quarter continued to reflect the $22.8 million in four related loans secured by pools of commercial leases that Sky officials expect to recover from insurance covering the credit arrangement.

Fred Cummings, an analyst at Cleveland-based McDonald Investments, said Sky had a solid fourth quarter and year.

“The net income growth is up 17 percent, helped by the acquisition of Three Rivers and Sky's net interest margin relative to the third quarter was [up slightly,] when most banks' margins have been declining,” Mr. Cummings said.

Sky's stock finished down 40 cents a share yesterday at $20.36 in Nasdaq trading.

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