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First Financial annual earnings down 28%

First Financial Bancorp today reported annual earnings of $48.3 million, or 83 cents per diluted common share, a 28 percent decline from the $67.3 million, or $1.14 a share, posted for 2012.

The Cincinnati-based part of First Financial Bank also reported fourth-quarter earnings of $3.8 million, or 7 cents per diluted common share, a 77 percent plunge from the $16.3 million, or 28 cents a share, posted for the same three months of the prior year.

Fourth-quarter earnings were reduced by several special items, including $1.3 million paid in benefits for employees whose jobs were eliminated. The company also repurchased 750,145 shares last year at an average price of $15.70.

First Financial entered the Fort Wayne market in December, when it hired away 15 Tower Bank employees to open a downtown office.

sslater@jg.net

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