CIT Group (CIT), a lender to small and medium-sized businesses, saw its earnings plummet 59% in the fourth quarter hurt by the effects of accounting changes and payments on debt.

The company posted a profit of $34 million, or 17 cents a share, for the period, down from $83 million, or 41 cents a share, a year earlier. CIT increased its volume of business across all commercial segments to $3.3 billion, up 40% from the previous quarter and 70% from the fourth-quarter of 2010.

The company launched the CIT Real Estate Finance segment in the past few months, thrusting the firm back into the origination and underwriting of commercial real estate loans.

For the year, CIT earned $28 million, or 14 cents a share, compared to income of $526 million, or $2.62 a share, in 2010.

CIT, which has been emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, noted that in preparing its financial statements it identified errors in accounting from previous periods.

“These errors decreased tangible book value per common share by 32 cents on a cumulative basis, which is reflected in the $42.35 TBV per share at Dec. 31,” the company said in a release.

Credit and lending metrics improved in the fourth quarter with net charge offs hitting $24 million down from $180 million a year earlier.

Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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