Roma Financial Corp., the Robbinsville-based holding company for Roma and RomAsia banks, reported a 90 percent decrease in net income last year — from $7 million in 2011 to $600,000 in 2012.

According to a company press release, a significant chunk of the decrease was attributable to some $2.0 million in merger expenses. Roma Bank was acquired by Short Hills-based Investors Bank in an all-stock deal in December 19. Under the deal, Investors acquired Financial Corp., and its holdings for about $452 million.

Roma also reported that net interest income declined in 2012 by 3.7 percent ­— some $2 million. Net income on a per share basis was 2 cents per diluted share, compared to 23 cents per diluted share in 2011.

“Without question, 2012 was a very difficult and challenging year,” said Peter Inverso, Roma president and CEO. “Despite sub-par results, our balance sheet remains very strong and we remain well capitalized by current regulatory standards.”

He said that looking forward, the bank sees “decided improvement in our financial metrics in 2013 and the benefit of being a part of a larger, community focused banking organization upon the merger of our company and Investors Bancorp.”

The company’s consolidated assets were $1.81 billion at the end of 2012 as compared to $1.89 billion on December 31, 2011, and $1.85 billion as of September 30, 2012. Deposits of $1.5 billion reflected decreases of 5.8 percent from 2011 and .05 percent compared September 30. Stock repurchases during the year lowered stockholders’ equity to $215.6 million at the end of last year, compared to $218.0 million at in 2011.

“A 50 percent increase in our provision for loan losses; further compression in net interest income; costs of maintaining reacquired properties; compliance with the regulatory agreement; and merger related expenses were the significant drivers of our low earnings this year,” said Inverso.

According to Inverso, “non-performing assets — non-performing loans and properties acquired in foreclosures — continued their increase this year. While the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans declined 25 basis points to 4.34 percent, the lowest level since the acquisition of Sterling Banks in 2010, the ratio of non-performing assets to total assets increased 51 basis points to 3.07 percent.”

Another problem affecting Roma in 2012 was tougher banking regulations. Roma faced a significant challenge when the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in September ordered the bank to improve its credit review process, compliance with federal anti-money laundering laws, internal audit procedures, and oversight of information technology.

According to Inverso, the decision to merge was one of two options being considered by bank officials. The other was to convert all of the company’s shares to publicly traded stock as a way to raise capital. In that case, Roma would have had to deal with increased oversight and regulations from the federal government.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, three members of Roma Financial’s board of directors will be appointed to the board of directors of Investors Bank, with the remaining Roma board members serving on an advisory board. Current Roma Bank customers will become depositors of Investors Bank, and will have the same rights and privileges in Investors as if their accounts had been established with Investors Bank on the date they were established with Roma Bank.

Inverso said the bank is incrementally reducing its balance sheet and the excess liquidity in it, and improving its interest rate risk by lowering rates on its certificate deposit products. “Interest margins tightened further as longer term investment options remained unattractive and our loan portfolio yields contracted from refinancing and rate competition in the commercial markets.”

Inverso, who plans to retire after the merger is approved, has said he is considering a run for his former longtime 14th District seat in the state senate. “I’ve been asked by the leadership of the state to consider running,” Inverso was quoted as saying in media reports. “There are a lot of things I need to evaluate but I did tell them I would consider it.”

Before his retirement in 2008, Inverso, 74, spent 16 years as the state senator from the 14th District. “I’m highly flattered that they think I still have appeal but at this juncture there’s been no decision made,” he said.

­Roma Bank (ROMA), 2300 Route 33, Robbinsville 08691; 609-223-8200; fax, 609-223-8303. Peter Inverso, president.

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