* Q1 net profit 409.5 mln dhs vs. 340.1 mln dhs a year ago - statement
* Profit driven by 18.1 pct y-o-y lending growth
* Meets analysts' average forecast (Adds detail, context)
DUBAI, April 21 Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank , the largest sharia-compliant lender in the emirate, met analysts' expectations as it posted a 20.4 percent rise in first-quarter net profit on Monday, with higher lending cited for the increase.
The lender, which said earlier this month it was buying much of Barclays' retail operations in the United Arab Emirates, made a net profit of 409.5 million dirhams ($111.5 million) in the three months to March 31. That was up from 340.1 million dirhams in the prior-year period, it said in a bourse statement.
The results were in line with the average estimate of three analysts, who forecast profit of 411 million dirhams in a Reuters poll.
ADIB said April 6 it would buy the retail business of the British lender for 650 million dirhams, subject to regulatory approval, as Barclays became the latest foreign lender to exit the country's highly-competitive consumer banking space as new capital rules make banks evaluate their global footprint.
ADIB attributed its profit hike in the first quarter to an 18.1 percent year-on-year increase in lending, with total loans standing at 63.8 billion dirhams at the end of March 2014.
Bank lending across the UAE banking system has been buoyant in recent months as the economy rebounds from a real estate crash and debt problems at a number of Dubai government-related entities - December saw the fastest lending growth in nearly four years, before dipping slightly in January, central bank data showed.
Over the same timeframe, deposits grew 21.4 percent to 77 billion dirhams.
The profit increase came despite a 16.7 percent increase in credit provisions to 216.4 million dirhams in the three months to March 31.
The fact the bank could grow its profits healthily while still maintaining a conservative stance towards provisioning showed the strength of the bank's core business, chief executive officer Tirad Al Mahmoud said in the statement. ($1 = 3.6730 UAE Dirhams) (Reporting by David French; Editing by Mirna Sleiman)