* Q1 op profit 4.92 bln SEK vs fcast 4.79 bln
* Says prepared for potentially tougher capital rules on
* Income outside Sweden rises 13 percent
(Adds details, background)
STOCKHOLM, April 30 Sweden's Handelsbanken
posted a bigger-than-expected rise in quarterly
earnings with business in Britain and the Netherlands lifting
income as the bank keeps up its pace of expansion overseas.
Handelsbanken wraps up a healthy earnings season for the
Swedish banks thanks to the region's solid economic backdrop and
stronger income from companies that are finally stepping out to
do deals after a long dry spell.
Operating profit in the quarter rose 13 percent to 4.92
billion crowns ($750 million) with commissions and fees and
higher equity market activity boosting income, beating a mean
forecast for 4.79 billion crowns in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Core income in home markets outside of Sweden rose 13
percent. In Britain alone, net interest income jumped 30 percent
and in the Netherlands 40 percent.
Unlike other Nordic banks that have been busy shrinking
their balance sheets, Handelsbanken has been growing rapidly in
Britain, grabbing market share from competitors still struggling
to get their houses in order after the financial crisis.
Handelsbanken opened five new branches in the first quarter,
taking its total to 166. While it still makes the bulk of its
income in Sweden, profits in Britain are now on par with some of
its other Nordic markets.
In contrast to its peers who are slashing jobs and focusing
on costs, Handelsbanken's expenses rose 2 percent in the quarter
while the average number of employees rose by almost 400, mainly
due to expansion in Britain and the Netherlands.
Handelsbanken said on Wednesday a proposal by Sweden's
financial watchdog to raise the amount of capital needed to be
put aside for possible losses in bank mortgage portfolios to 25
percent from a current 15 percent would increase its capital
requirement a further 9.2 billion crowns ($1.4 billion).
"The bank's assessment is that the group will continue to be
well capitalised after a possible implementation," the bank said
in a statement.
Like other Nordic lenders, Handelsbanken has benefited from
a healthy economy in Sweden which grew at the fastest pace in
three years in the fourth quarter.
Uncertainty about the global recovery and worries about the
housing market in Sweden remain, but the economy is nevertheless
expected to pick up speed this year and expand around 2.7
($1 = 6.5625 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Mia Shanley; Editing by Matt Driskill)