SANTA ROSA -- Sterling Financial Corporation (NASDAQ: STSA), parent company of Sonoma Bank and Sterling Bank, today reported net income of $30.6 million for the third quarter of 2012. Those earnings represented a 170.9 percent increase versus the same quarter in 2011, driven by asset growth, increased profits from mortgage services and the sale of certain investment securities.

Net assets rose 3.1 percent over the twelve month period, reaching $9.47 billion as of Sept. 30. Gross loans rose 9 percent, to $6.14 billion. Loan originations for the quarter rose 9 percent compared to the same point last year, at $457.1 million.

Income from mortgage banking operations was 74 percent higher than the same point last year, at $28.5 million. Those profits were driven largely by an increased margin on residential loan sales. Total noninterest income, including the sale of investment securities, rose 60.5 percent, to 46.7 million.

Net interest income declined 5.3 percent over the prior twelve months, at $96 million in the third quarter. Interest expense declined 22 percent during the same period, to 20.7 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30.

Sterling reported net charge-offs of $6 million for the quarter, compared to $29.9 million for the same period in 2011. The company had a $2 million provision for loan losses, compared to $6 million one year prior. Nonperforming assets were $259 million as of Sept. 30 -- 2.73 percent of total assets -- versus $434.7 million or 4.74 percent of total assets twelve months prior.

Sterling's board of directors approved a quarterly cash dividend of 15 cents per share of common stock, payable on Nov. 20 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 6.

Shares in Sterling Financial Corporation were trading at $21.61 at the close of trading Thursday, up 27 cents, or 1.27 percent.