Astoria Financial Corp., one of Long Island's largest banking companies, said its profit rose by 43 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, mostly on the gain from a preferred stock sale.

Astoria, parent of the 85-branch Astoria Federal Savings and Loan and headquartered in Lake Success, said net income was $16.9 million, or 17 cents a share, for the three months ended Dec. 31. It earned $11.8 million, or 12 cents, a year earlier.

For the year ended Dec. 31, 2012, net income was $53.1 million, or 55 cents a share, down 21 percent from $67.2 million and 70 cents a share a year earlier.

The fourth quarter figures include a $3.9-million, or four cents a share after-tax gain from the sale of Astoria's entire holdings of Freddie Mac preferred stock.

The full year total also included a $1.4-million charge for executive retirement costs, a $2.2-million charge for employee severance expenses and a $785,000 charge for debt extinguishment -- all after tax.

Astoria said superstorm Sandy, which struck Oct. 29, cost it $1.3 million -- in repairs to branches, relief donations and waived banking fees.

The banking company said delinquent loans continued to decline but that it raised its provision for loan losses in the final quarter by $900,000 to $10.9 million.

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It said that net interest margin -- the difference between the interest a bank earns on its assets, such as loans and investments, and what it pays out to depositors -- rose to 2.21 percent from 2.20 percent a year earlier.