May 21, 2018 / 7:14 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Bank of Georgia posts about 19 pct rise in Q1 profit

(Adds details on margins, lending, context on Georgian economy)

May 21 (Reuters) - Bank of Georgia Group Plc, the largest Georgian lender, on Monday posted an 18.8 percent rise in first-quarter profit, driven by its banking and investment businesses, on the back of strong macroeconomic performance and business outlook in the country.

Bank of Georgia Group Plc is the new parent company of BGEO Group Plc, which includes the banking and investment businesses before the latter splits from the parent on May 29.

The holding company said profit rose to 128.6 million laris ($52.9 million) in the quarter from 108.2 million laris a year ago.

The Tbilisi-based lender said loan book at its banking business grew 21.3 percent in what is traditionally the slowest quarter of the year, helped by strength in retail lending.

However, net interest margin fell to 7 percent at the end of March, from 7.4 percent a year earlier, due to a recent pick-up in euro-denominated corporate lending and strong growth in its mortgage portfolio.

The banking division posted a 19.3 percent profit jump, while core earnings at its investment business climbed 10.6 percent.

Rival lender TBC Bank Group Plc last week posted a 1 percent rise in first-quarter net profit to 97.5 million laris.

Georgia’s economy expanded 4.9 percent year-on-year in January-February, preliminary official data showed in April, slightly up from 4.8 percent in the same period last year.

Bank of Georgia now has a 36.2 percent market share as of March 31, the company said, referring to data from the National Bank of Georgia. ($1 = 2.4300 laris) (Reporting By Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

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