(Adds context on financial sector, more CEO comment, updates shares)
By Lewis Krauskopf
July 29 (Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp on Wednesday reported higher-than-expected quarterly profit as the company's biggest division that serves banks and financial institutions showed underlying revenue growth for the first time since 2011.
Revenue at its Financial & Risk segment rose 1 percent in the second quarter when excluding currency and acquisitions.
"It was very encouraging to see organic growth in F&R," said Jefferies analyst Dan Dolev. "Everybody has been waiting for it. They delivered it."
Thomson Reuters shares, which had been down more than 6 percent in 2015 through Tuesday, rose 4 percent after the results, their best one-day move in about four years.
The news and information company posted underlying revenue increases across its four main divisions.
"The quarter and the first half just confirms the momentum that is building inside the business," Chief Executive Jim Smith said in an interview.
Thomson Reuters has struggled to expand since Thomson Corp acquired Reuters Group Plc in 2008, a $17 billion merger that was completed just as the financial industry crisis started.
More recently, since the end of January, U.S. financial shares have outperformed the broader market. Much of that optimism has come from investors preparing for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, boosting the rates at which banks can lend and therefore their profits.
Smith, in the interview, pointed to more stability in the banking and financial services sectors than a few years ago. He also said Thomson Reuters had benefited from increasing regulation as customers seek out the company's risk products.
Second-quarter net earnings were $281 million, or 33 cents per share, compared with $260 million, or 31 cents per share, a year ago.
Adjusted for special items, earnings were 52 cents per share. Analysts, on average, were looking for 50 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenues fell 4 percent to $3.04 billion, but rose when factoring out currency rate swings. That was slightly below Wall Street estimates of $3.07 billion, based on a survey of 12 analysts who follow the New York-listed shares.
In its Financial & Risk segment, revenue was $1.55 billion. Revenues in the Americas and Asia each rose by 1 percent, while they were flat in Europe, Middle East and Africa. The division's net sales outpaced cancellations - a key indicator of future growth.
"We have seen the underlying momentum now over the past couple of years," Smith said about the key division, which represents more than half of the company's overall revenue. "I am confident in the trajectory, and we will maintain that trajectory of continued improvement."
Jefferies' Dolev said the company has been successful in migrating customers to new versions of its Eikon financial platform.
Revenue in its Legal business, which includes the Westlaw legal database, was $840 million, rising 2 percent on an organic basis. Tax & Accounting sales increased 5 percent organically.
The company reaffirmed its 2015 forecast, including the expectation for positive organic revenue growth. It said it continues to project that currency is likely to have a higher-than-usual impact on 2015 results.
Thomson Reuters, which is the parent of Reuters News, competes for financial customers with Bloomberg LP, as well as News Corp's Dow Jones unit.
Shares were up 3.8 percent at C$50.54 in Toronto and 4 percent at $39.17 in New York trading.
Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Alden Bentley and Nick Zieminski