May 3, 2019 / 6:31 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Erste's profits supported by eastern Europe markets

(Adds detail, CEO)

VIENNA, May 3 (Reuters) - Austrian bank Erste Group on Friday reported a 12 percent increase in first-quarter net profit, topping expectations thanks to solid lending in its core markets, including the Czech Republic and Austria.

Net profit reached 377 million euros ($421.15 million) in the January to March period from 336 million euros last year, the bank said.

Analysts had forecast profit of 354 million euros in a Reuters poll.

Erste, which operates in six eastern European markets, celebrates its 200-year anniversary this year.

“From today’s perspective, we are thus excellently positioned to meet our targets for the anniversary year 2019 – income growing faster than costs, continuing low risk costs and a solid double-digit return on tangible equity of more than 11 percent,” Chief Executive Andreas Treichl said.

Net interest income, the profit from loans minus funding costs, came in at 1.16 billion euros, in line with expectations.

The fully loaded common equity tier 1 ratio, the strictest measure of a bank’s capital strength, stood at 13.2 percent at end March after 13.5 percent end-2018.

A new banking tax in Romania is expected to weigh on its full-year operating result by up to 20 million euros.

$1 = 0.8952 euros Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; editing by Thomas Seythal and Jane Merriman

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