In a pre-market filing to the Singapore Exchange, UOB said its first quarter net profit rose 5.4 percent from a year ago to 807 million Singapore dollars ($578 million). That was higher than the 765 million Singapore dollars ($548 million) that CIMB Securities projected and 775 million Singapore dollars ($555 million) that Daiwa Capital markets expected.
The bank's better performance was helped by higher net interest income and trading income. UOB said its asset quality was sound and non-performing loans ratio was stable at 1.5 percent.
However, net interest margin — a measure of lending profitability — decreased 5 basis points to 1.73 percent.
"We started the year on a bright note with a steady growth trajectory from our core businesses. Against an unpredictable and volatile macro backdrop, we have maintained a resilient portfolio and strong balance sheet," UOB's deputy chairman and chief executive Wee Ee Cheong said in a statement.
The bank, the smallest of Singapore's three listed lenders, was led first quarter earnings for the sector that has been hit by debt woes among oil services firms.
The bank's shares rose as much as 1.5 percent in early trade. Rivals DBS Group Holdings and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) also both advanced 1 percent. The three banks helped the city state's benchmark Straits Times Index to stay in the green, in contrast to much of the region.
DBS and OCBC are scheduled to report their first quarter results on May 2 and May 9, respectively.