Banesto First-Quarter Net Profit Rises 11% on Loans

Spain's Banco Espanol de Credito, or Banesto, said Wednesday that first-quarter net profit rose 11% on strong loan growth and improving lending margins.

Madrid-based Banesto said net profit rose to 187.5 million euros ($251.74 million) in the three-month period, up from 168.7 million euros in the year-earlier period.

Banesto's comparative figures were affected by the November sale of real estate company Inmobiliaria Urbis, as Urbis no longer contributes to the bank's earnings.

Banesto said first-quarter net interest income rose 18% to 349.2 million euros ($468.84 million).

Total loans grew almost 28% in the first quarter, as Banesto continued to gain customers in the small- and medium-sized business segment.

Banesto is a key contributor to the results of Spain's largest financial institution, Santander Central Hispano, which owns 87% of the bank and reports its earnings April 28.

Shares of Spanish domestic banks have had a strong start to the year, helped by recurring merger speculation and continued strong earnings prospects.

Banesto shares were up 0.5% at 18.39 euros ($24.69).