UPDATE 1-Dubai's Emirates NBD Q4 net profit rises 17 pct

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DUBAI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Emirates NBD (ENBD), Dubai’s largest lender, posted a 17 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit on Tuesday, buoyed by loan growth, interest rate rises and higher sales.

The bank, the first major lender from the United Arab Emirates to report its earnings during the quarter, made a net profit of 2.18 billion dirhams ($593.5 million) in the three months to Dec. 31, a statement from the bank said, compared with 1.86 billion dirhams in the corresponding period of 2016.

SICO Bahrain forecast the bank to post a net profit of 2.23 billion dirhams for the quarter, while EFG Hermes expected a profit of 1.98 billion dirhams.

After opening its first branch in India in 2017, the bank said it would continue to expand its international presence in 2018 by growing its branch network in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and opening a representative office in Turkey.

The bank, 55.6 percent owned by state fund Investment Corp, should benefit in 2018 as loan pricing moves upwards as a result of higher interest rates and as the UAE economic growth rate accelerates.

Performance in the fourth quarter was boosted by a 14 percent climb in net interest income from the three-month period before as a result of loan growth and recent interest rate rises, it said. Non-interest income improved 24 percent due to higher income from bancassurance and the sale of investments.

Still, growth was moderated by a 27 percent rise in provisions from a year earlier to 537 million dirhams. Operating expenses climbed by 4 percent from the quarter before as marketing and information technology costs rose.

$1 = 3.6730 UAE dirham Reporting By Tom Arnold; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu