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UPDATE 1-SunTrust Banks' profit rises 12 pct on higher interest rates

(Adds details on net interest income and expenses, background on Fed rate hikes)

Oct 20 (Reuters) - U.S. regional lender SunTrust Banks Inc's profit rose 12 percent in the third quarter, as interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve drove higher net interest income.

The Atlanta-based bank said on Friday its net interest income rose 9.3 percent to $1.47 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30.

Banks in the United States have gotten a much-needed boost from higher interest rates. The Fed has raised rates three times since the second quarter of last year and has indicated to another rate hike in December.

Net income available to common shareholders rose to $512 million from $457 million, a year earlier. Earnings per share rose to $1.06 from $0.91.

Analysts on average had expected third-quarter earnings of $1.05 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. It was not immediately clear if the numbers were comparable.

SunTrust's higher profit was also driven by a dip in non-interest expenses, which declined 1.3 percent to $1.39 billion. (Reporting by Roopal Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)