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First Merchants to buy Michigan Bank for $290 million

First Merchants Bank in Munster.

First Merchants Bank posted the highest earnings per share of $3.22 in its 125-year history last year, a 52 percent jump over earnings per share in 2017.

The Muncie-based bank, the successor to Munster-based Citizens Financial Bank, made $159.1 million in 2018, up from $96.1 million the previous year. It grew profits by 71 percent to $41.7 million in the fourth quarter, up from $24.4 million during 2017. 

“I am proud of our team for running through the tape in 2018 by posting a strong and balanced organic growth quarter," First Merchants President and CEO Michael Rechin said. "Quality low-cost funding, loan growth and sound asset quality all contributed prominently in our record quarter capping off our record year. Our teammates connect with the needs of the marketplace and our communities while our execution produces results and efficiency.”

The bank made a record $0.85 per share in the fourth quarter, a 73 percent jump over the $0.49 per share in the fourth quarter of 2017. Part of the growth has been due to acquisitions.

“We look forward to 2019 and extending our franchise into Michigan through our merger with Monroe Bank & Trust," Rechin said. "We look to continue their tradition of superior service to Monroe’s communities through the combination of their skilled bankers and First Merchants’ delivery capabilities.”

First Merchants now has $9.9 billion in assets, including $7.8 billion in deposits. It grew deposits by 8 percent or $582 million in 2018, and boosted loans by $471 million, or 7 percent, to $7.2 billion over the past year.

“We look forward to 2019 and extending our franchise into Michigan through our merger with Monroe Bank & Trust. We look to continue their tradition of superior service to Monroe’s communities through the combination of their skilled bankers and First Merchants’ delivery capabilities.”

First Merchants increased net interested income by $61.6 million, or 22 percent, to $338.9 million.

Locally, First Merchants has locations in Munster, Highland, East Chicago, Dyer, St. John, Schererville, Hammond, Crown Point, Flossmoor, South Holland, Hegewisch and Harvey.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.