Jan 29 (Reuters) - CIT Group Inc's fourth-quarter profit beat Wall Street estimates by a wide margin as the small-business lender halved the money it spent to cover interest payments on long-term debt.
For the quarter ended Dec. 31, CIT earned $206.8 million, or $1.03 per share, far higher than the $36.3 million, or 18 cents a share, it earned a year ago.
Analysts on average expected the lender to earn 61 cents a share, excluding items, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company's interest payments on its long-term debt halved to $324.1 million.
CIT, led by former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain, has been redeeming its high-cost debt and taking charges as it looks to reduce its costs. It reported losses for first three quarters of 2012 on the charges.