Student lending giant Sallie Mae's net income jumped 67 percent in the fourth quarter as more borrowers repaid their loans and the company refinanced its own debt.
The company, based in Reston, Va., said Wednesday that net income for the quarter ended Dec. 31 was $431.4 million, or 84 cents per share, from $258.1 million, or 52 cents per share, a year earlier.
Sallie Mae, whose official name is SLM Corp., said it originated $413 million of private loans during the period, up from $381 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. Its growing loan portfolio led the lender to set aside $319.9 million for future loan losses, compared with $269.4 million in the same quarter a year ago.
Sallie Mae's net income also benefited from a $118 million gain the company booked by repurchasing $1.3 billion of corporate debt.
The nascent economic recovery helped more Sallie Mae borrowers repay their loans. Delinquencies dropped to 10.6 percent from 12.1 percent a year earlier. The company gave up on collecting 4.8 percent of its loans, down from 5.1 percent in 2009.
Core earnings, which don't include items, were 75 cents a share, the company said. Analysts, who typically don't include items in their estimates, expected 71 cents a share.
For the year, the company boosted net income to $458.2 million, or 94 cents per share, from $178.3 million, or 38 cents per share, in 2009.
Sallie Mae originates and holds student loans, and collects payments from borrowers. It also helps states and colleges run college savings plans.
The company's shares dropped 42 cents, or 3 percent, to $13.82 Wednesday before the earnings were issued.
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