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Investment Banking Drives BNP Paribas's First Quarter Profit

French bank BNP Paribas reported a better than forecast 24.5% rise in its first-quarter net profit on Wednesday, helped by earnings growth at its investment banking and asset management units and capital gains.

The eurozone's second-biggest bank by market capitalisation, said its net profit rose to 2.51 billion euros ($3.41 billion), which compared with an average market forecast of 2.04 billion euros according to a Reuters poll of 21 analysts.

Earnings were boosted by capital gains which yielded a further contribution of 541 million euros. This was mainly due to the sale of French clothing retailer Vivarte, in which BNP Paribas held a stake.

Gross operating profit rose 22.7% to 3.63 billion euros. Revenue rose 20.5% to 8.21 billion euros, helped by BNP Paribas's takeover of Italian bank BNL last year.

But Chief Executive Baudouin Prot said BNP Paribas was not interested in Dutch bank ABN AMRO , which is at the centre of a current bid tussle.

"Overall, given the size, the execution risk and the price of the assets, it does not fit at all with the acquisition criteria of BNP Paribas," he told Reuters.

Some analysts have speculated that BNP Paribas could be interested in ABN AMRO's U.S. bank LaSalle since BNP Paribas has a U.S. retail banking arm of its own.

Prot also said BNP Paribas was not interested in ABN AMRO's Italian assets.

Earlier this month, Deutsche Bank reported a record first-quarter profit on the back of higher trading revenues, while Swiss bank UBS posted an unexpected fall in its first-quarter net profit.

BNP Paribas shares closed up 0.1% at 87.50 euros on Tuesday. The stock has risen around 6 percent since the start of 2007, outperforming a 4% in the DJ Stoxx European bank sector.