April 30, 2013 / 7:16 AM / in 4 years

UPDATE 1-Asset sales help Spain's Popular return to profit

(Adds details, background)

MADRID, April 30 (Reuters) - Spanish bank Popular returned to profit in the first quarter of this year after a record loss in 2012, as assets sales offset weak business in its home market.

Popular said on Tuesday it made a net profit of 104 million euros ($136 million) in the first quarter, beating analysts’ average forecast of 88 million in a Reuters poll, helped by assets sales worth around 195 million euros.

However, its net interest income, a key measure for banks representing the difference between earnings on loans and payouts on deposits, fell 14.5 percent to 593 million euros, squeezed by Spain’s recession and in line with analysts’ forecast for 592 million.

Other Spanish banks, including the country’s top lenders, also reported drops in net interest income at home in the first quarter.

Popular, founded in 1926 and known in Spain for its caution until it embarked into a quick property-driven expansion more than a decade ago, said its bad loan ratio reached 9.94 percent.

That was up from a ratio of 6.35 percent at the same period last year but still below a sector average of 10.4 percent.

Popular last year reported a loss of 2.46 billion euros, its bigger ever, after taking 9.6 billion euros in provisions to cover bad investments in real estate which also forced the bank to carry out a 2.5-billion-euro capital hike.

$1 = 0.7634 euros Reporting by Julien Toyer; Editing by Tracy Rucinski and Mark Potter

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