* Net profit comes in above market estimate
* Bank reports strong growth in loans
* CEO says operating environment is increasingly challenging
* Analysts cautious on outlook for Singaporean banks (Recasts, adds comments from CEO, details of results)
SINGAPORE, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Singapore’s Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd beat market estimates on Monday with a 16 percent rise in quarterly profit as increased loan volumes and higher net interest margins drove up net interest income.
The results came after biggest-listed regional bank DBS Group Holdings Ltd missed market estimates last week, while the smallest lender, United Overseas Bank, beat estimates.
Analysts say an easing of Singapore’s economic growth amid an international trade row, as well as new property curbs imposed last month, have clouded the outlook for banks after they reported record profits last year.
“The operating environment is increasingly challenging and we are watchful of the severe implications to the global economy and financial markets from the escalating trade and political tensions,” CEO Samuel Tsien said in a statement.
OCBC’s net profit came in at S$1.21 billion ($885 million) in the three months ended June 30 versus S$1.04 billion a year ago, and above one analyst’s estimate of S$1.19 billion.
The bank’s net interest margin expanded two basis points to 1.67 percent, helping push net interest income to S$1.45 billion in the quarter, up 8 percent from a year ago.
Tsien said the strong net interest income was driven by robust loan growth and improved asset yields in Singapore and Malaysia. ($1 = 1.3670 Singapore dollars) (Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Stephen Coates)