January 21, 2016 / 3:20 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Profits up at Saudi's Al Rajhi Bank, flat at Samba

* Al Rajhi Q4 1.95 bln riyals vs 1.52 bln year-ago

* Samba Q4 1.23 bln riyals unchanged from year-ago

* Deposits flat at Al Rajhi (Adds details, context)

By Tom Arnold

DUBAI, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank reported a 28.2 percent rise in its fourth-quarter net profit on Thursday, beating analyst forecasts as operating income was pushed up by higher fee income from banking services and other revenue.

The kingdom’s second-largest lender by assets made 1.95 billion riyals ($519.6 million) in the three months to Dec. 31, up from 1.52 billion riyals in the same period a year earlier, it said in a bourse statement.

Samba Financial Group, the kingdom’s third-largest bank by assets, reported flat net profit for the fourth quarter.

It concludes a mixed earnings season for banks, with as many profit falls as rises at the kingdom’s major lenders as the slump in oil prices begins to take some toll.

Still, Al Rajhi’s results were ahead of estimates by seven analysts surveyed by Reuters, who had forecast quarterly profit of 1.67 billion riyals.

A rise in the bank’s operating income was partly offset by a 5 percent rise in total operating expenses due to increases on impairment charges linked to credit losses and salary expenses, it said.

The bank also announced its board was recommending a cash dividend of 1 riyal per share for the second half of 2015, an increase on the 0.75 riyals per share the bank paid out in the same period of the previous year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

But in a sign of how lower oil prices are squeezing liquidity in the banking system, the bank’s deposits edged up only 0.06 percent to 256.2 billion riyals between the end of 2014 and the end of 2015.

Deposits dipped by 2.95 percent over the same period at National Commercial Bank, the kingdom’s largest bank by assets said last week.

SAMBA PROFIT FLAT

Samba made a profit of 1.23 billion riyals in the three months to Dec. 31, the same figure it reported for the corresponding period a year earlier, it said in a bourse statement.

Seven analysts polled by Reuters had on average forecast the bank would make a quarterly net profit of 1.21 billion riyals.

Increases in trading income and net special commission income were offset by lower income from fees and investments.

Deposits rose to 171.4 billion riyals at the end of December, up 4.6 percent from a year earlier. ($1 = 3.7529 riyals) (Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by David French and Adrian Croft)

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