* Helped by lower operating expenses
* Q3 net profit 1.72 bln riyals vs 1.66 bln riyals (Adds details, background)
DUBAI, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Al Rajhi Bank posted its first quarterly rise in net profit in nine quarters on Tuesday helped by lower expenses, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest listed lender by assets said.
Net profit rose 3.6 percent to 1.72 billion riyals ($458.8 million) for the three months to Sept. 30, in line with an average estimate from analysts of 1.77 billion.
The bank had posted declining profits in the preceding eight quarters, which it attributed to higher provisioning and higher operating expenses.
Saudi lenders’ net interest income is under pressure from weakening loan growth and competition, especially in the retail market. Analysts also warn a prolonged slump in oil prices could hurt the sector.
Al Rajhi said operating income fell by 4.1 percent to 10.15 billion riyals, while profits from special commissions increased 2.4 percent to 7.47 billion riyals.
Loans and advances at the end September stood at 209.91 billion riyals, up 3.1 percent, while deposits rose 6.2 percent to 265.48 billion riyals.
Al Rajhi has been squeezed by regulations on banking fees enforced last year in addition to new mortgage lending limits introduced in November 2014 which capped the maximum loan-to-value ratio at 70 percent.
In May the bank appointed former Standard Chartered executive Steve Bertamini as chief executive to replace Suleiman bin Abdul Aziz al-Zabin. Bertamini is believed to be Rajhi’s first non-Saudi CEO since its late 1950s founding.
Saudi companies issue brief earnings statements early in the reporting period before publishing more detailed results.
$1 = 3.7490 riyals Reporting by Nadia Saleem and Tom Arnold; editing Jason Neely