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Sun Bancorp's turnaround marked by DTA reversal

Following two years of improved earnings, formerly troubled Sun Bancorp Inc. has finally turned the corner enough to reverse some of its deferred tax asset, management announced during the bank's fourth-quarter 2016 earnings call Jan. 31.

Sun Bancorp reported fourth-quarter 2016 net income of $56.0 million, or $2.94 per diluted share, compared to $1.6 million, or 9 cents per diluted share a quarter ago and $1.5 million, or 8 cents per diluted share, a year ago.

The bank reversed $53.7 million of its deferred tax asset at the end of 2016 following eight consecutive quarters of improving earnings, said President and CEO Thomas O'Brien. The DTA contributed $2.82 per diluted share to the quarter's earnings.

O'Brien said while the bank is still "far from content" with the level of absolute profit, the reversal "puts the remnants of the legacy challenges here at Sun in the dustbin of history."

The DTA reversal shows just how far the company has come since its recent money-losing history and change in executive leadership. The bank used a no-growth earnings estimate to figure out how much to reverse and how much to keep; it still has $74 million remaining in its DTA and will require sustained earnings growth over time to reclaim the rest of it. CFO Thomas Brugger said based on the bank's modeling, it could reclaim the remaining allowance by 2030 or 2031. He added that the bank's ability to reclaim the balance could be impacted by proposed tax reform from the Trump administration, which could increase income and reduce the size of the DTA.