Wilmington Trust Corp.'s (WL) fourth-quarter loss widened as the company's loan-loss provision surged.

The operator of regional banks throughout the mid-Atlantic region, which also provides financial services around the world, has struggled amid continued credit problems. It has agreed to be bought by M&T Bank Corp. (MTB) in a deal that valued the target at $351 million when it was announced in November.

Merger and acquisition activity among U.S. banks has picked up lately and is expected to increase further, particularly as institutions that have yet to return to profitability look to return outstanding funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Wilmington reported a loss of $209.3 million, or $2.35 a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $11.2 million, or 23 cents a share. Revenue fell 8.2% to $163.6 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast a loss of 35 cents a share on $168 million in revenue. Such estimates typically exclude one-time items and other adjustments.

Loan-loss provisions were $135.6 million, up from $82.8 million a year earlier but less than the prior quarter's $281.5 million. Net charge-offs, or loans lenders don't think are collectible, rose to 2.58% of average loans from 0.37% a year earlier and from 1.74% in the third quarter. Nonperforming assets, those near default, jumped to 15.02% from 5.76% and 12.11%.

Shares closed Thursday at $4.39 and were inactive premarket. The stock has plunged 71% over the past year.

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