DUBAI, May 9 (Reuters) - Samba Financial Group, Saudi Arabia’s third-largest bank by assets, reported a 6 percent rise in first-quarter net profit on Wednesday, in line with analysts’ forecasts.
The bank made a profit of 1.3 billion riyals ($347 million) in the three months to March 31, up from 1.2 billion riyals in the same period a year earlier, it said in a bourse statement.
SICO Bahrain had forecast the bank would make a profit of 1.33 billion riyals, while EFG Hermes forecast a profit of 1.28 billion riyals.
The bank attributed its increase in net profit to a 15 percent drop in operating expenses as credit costs and expense for salaries declined.
A return to modest growth in the economy in 2018 is expected to help banks after several years in which they felt the fallout from weaker oil prices as the government embarked on an austerity drive in a bid to fill a budget shortfall.
Operating income for the quarter fell by 2 percent on the corresponding period of 2017 to 1.9 billion riyals, while profits from special commissions increased 5.5 percent over the same timeframe to 1.4 billion riyals.
Loans and advances at the end March stood at 116 billion riyals, falling 6.6 percent on the same point of 2017, while deposits rose 1.2 percent to 172.3 billion riyals over the same period.($1 = 3.7502 riyals) (Reporting by Tom Arnold and Saeed Azhar, editing by Davide Barbuscia)