Saudi Samba Financial Group Q1 profit rises 7 pct as costs drop

DUBAI, April 15 Tue Apr 15, 2014 1:49am EDT

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DUBAI, April 15 (Reuters) - Samba Financial Group, Saudi Arabia's third-largest bank by market value, posted a 7.1 percent rise in first-quarter net profit on Tuesday, beating analyst forecasts as operating expenses fell.

The bank said it made a profit of 1.24 billion riyals ($330.64 million) in the three months to March 31, up from 1.16 billion riyals in the same period a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters on average forecast the bank's net profit would be 1.14 billion riyals for the quarter.

The bank attributed the profit rise to a drop in operating expenses but did not provide further details.

Saudi companies issue brief earnings statements early in the reporting period before publishing more detailed results later.

Quarterly operating income fell 1.3 percent to 1.87 billion riyals, while profit from special commissions was near-flat from a year earlier at 1.08 billion riyals.

Loans and advances at March-end stood at 115.6 billion riyals, up 10.9 percent on the same point of 2013.

The bank held deposits worth 158.8 billion riyals as of March 31, up 4.7 percent from a year earlier.

Fitch Ratings said in January that Saudi banks should continue to see strong performance, with ample opportunity for lending provided by a good economic outlook thanks to high oil prices, high state spending and a bigger non-oil private sector.

($1 = 3.7502 Saudi Riyals) (Reporting by Matt Smith, editing by Olzhas Auyezov)

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