* Q1 EPS C$1.21 vs C$0.91 yr-ago
* Average expectations of C$1.09 EPS
* Cites loan growth
TORONTO, March 3 (Reuters) - Laurentian Bank of Canada LB.TO said on Wednesday its profit rose 28 percent in the first quarter as mortgage loans and revenue grew, outstripping analysts’ expectations.
The Montreal-based regional bank said net income rose to C$32 million ($31 million), or C$1.21 a share, in the first quarter ended Jan. 31. That compares to C$25 million, or 91 Canadian cents a share, in the same quarter a year earlier.
Analysts on average were expecting a per share profit of C$1.09, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Laurentian Bank said loan losses were C$16 million in the quarter, unchanged from the fourth quarter and up from C$12 million in the first quarter of 2009.
Total loans and bankers’ acceptances increased by more than C$2 billion in the year, with a large part of the gains due to a rise in residential mortgage volumes, the bank said.
“I am particularly pleased with our strong loan and revenue growth during the quarter, which, thanks to positive operating leverage, generated a significant improvement in the Bank’s efficiency ratio,” Chief Executive Rejean Robitaille said in a statement.
Laurentian Bank surprised observers by announcing a dividend increase in December, when it disclosed a 17 percent increase in operating profit in the fourth quarter and raised its 2010 profit target to between C$4 and C$4.70 a share.
Reporting by Andrea Hopkins, editing by Dave Zimmerman