DUBAI, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Bank Dhofar, the Omani lender in talks to merge with smaller rival Bank Sohar , beat analysts' estimates as it posted a 3.6 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit on Wednesday.
Oman's second-largest bank by market value made a net profit of 9.3 million rials ($24.2 million) in the three months to Dec. 31 compared with a profit of 9.02 million rials in the prior-year period, Reuters calculated from previous financial statements.
Two analysts polled by Reuters had estimated a quarterly profit of 8.32 million rials and 8.76 million rials respectively.
Reuters calculated fourth-quarter profit from previous financial statements. Full-year profit for 2013 was reported as 58.4 million rials, according to a statement to the bourse, much higher than the 37.7 million rials the bank made in 2012.
The annual profit hike was fuelled by Oman's Primary Court returning 26.1 million rials to Bank Dhofar in March after the country's appeals court overturned a judgement relating to a 2011 case involving Oman International Bank and Ali Redha Trading and Muttrah Holding over the ownership of 1,925,000 Bank Dhofar shares.
Net loans and advances grew 13.7 percent to 1.9 billion rials from 1.67 billion rials at the end of 2012. Deposits were also up over the same period, rising 24.3 percent year-on-year to 2.03 billion rials.
In July, Bank Dhofar said it had approached Bank Sohar with a view to merging the two entities and creating Oman's second-largest bank, with the latter saying it would consider the move.
The new entity would have total assets worth 4.49 billion rials, based on fourth-quarter financial statements.
Bank Sohar reported a 20.5 percent advance in fourth-quarter net profit on Tuesday. ($1 = 0.3850 Omani rials) (Reporting by David French; Editing by Dinesh Nair)