Hanmi Financial Corp. on Thursday reported slightly higher earnings in the fourth quarter and moved to a profit for the full year, thanks to lower credit losses and growth in government-backed loans to small businesses.

The Koreatown parent of Hanmi Bank reported net income of $5.5 million (22 cents a share), compared with $5.3 million (28 cents) in the same period a year earlier. The per-share results are adjusted to reflect a 1-for-8 reverse stock split that went into effect on Dec. 19.

Net interest income fell 6 percent to $24.4 million, and non-interest income rose 5 percent to nearly $6.4 million. Non-performing assets fell 64 percent year-over-year to $52.6 million, and total net charge-offs dropped 57 percent $15.1 million.

Chief Executive Jay S. Yoo noted that this was the fifth consecutive quarter that the bank – which had struggled with recession-related loan losses – reported a profit.

“2011 was a year of great transformation for Hanmi,” said Yoo in a statement. “With hard work and dedication of all our employees, we have overcome many challenges and have already implemented steps to continue on the road to profitability.”

Full-year net income totaled $28.1 million ($1.38), compared with a loss of $88 million (-$7.46) in 2010. Small Business Administration loan production totaled $93.9 million, generating $4.5 million in gains from the sale of SBA loans, $2.9 million of which came in the fourth quarter.

Hanmi last year abandoned a potential merger with South Korea’s Woori Finance Holdings Co. Ltd. after regulatory resistance from both countries. The company later raised more than $77 million net in a stock offering.

Shares were down 2 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $8.22 cents in midday trading on the Nasdaq.

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