BB&T Corp. (BBT), a large southeast U.S. bank, on Friday said fourth-quarter profit rose 37 percent, helped by loan growth, cost controls and increased fees from insurance commissions and service charges.

Net income for the bank, based in Winston-Salem, N.C. , net income rose to $416.9 million, or 75 cents per share, from $305 million, or 55 cents per share, a year earlier. Year-earlier results included $71.8 million of merger-related and other one-time costs.

Excluding items, BB&T said operating profit rose 10 percent to $415.8 million, or 75 cents per share. On that basis, analysts polled by Reuters Estimates on average forecast 76 cents.

Chief Executive John Allison said BB&T reduced its ratio of expenses to revenue. Assets also surpassed $100 billion for the first time, ending the year at $100.5 billion, up 11 percent.

BB&T is the biggest U.S. bank so far to report fourth-quarter results. The 10 largest banks are scheduled to report next week. Analysts expect at least seven to report higher profits, including Citigroup Inc. (C), J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Bank of America Corp. (BAC).

BB&T said fee, or noninterest, income rose 17 percent to $548.2 million. This included a 64 percent jump in insurance commissions, and higher fees from bank cards, debit cards and deposit-related service charges. Noninterest expense rose just 5 percent to $712.7 million.

Lending income rose 4 percent to $846 million.

The bank set aside $65.2 million for bad loans, up 12 percent. Total loans rose 9 percent to $68.2 billion, and deposits rose 14 percent to $67.7 billion.

BB&T had long been an active acquirer, but has recently slowed its rate of purchases. Allison has said BB&T doesn't plan to buy any banks before 2006, though asset management, consumer finance and more insurance purchases are possible. Some analysts believe BB&T might be a takeover target itself.