STOCKHOLM, April 26 (Reuters) - Sweden's Handelsbanken reported an 8 percent rise in first-quarter operating profit on Wednesday and beat market expectations as lower-than-expected loan losses as well as cost cuts boosted results.
Handelsbanken, one of Sweden's biggest mortgage banks, saw operating profit in the quarter increase to 5.35 billion Swedish crowns ($610 million) compared with 4.97 billion a year earlier, beating a mean forecast of 4.89 billion seen in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Net interest income, which includes income from mortgages, rose 4 percent to 7.08 billion crowns from 6.80 billion a year prior but was lower than the 7.12 billion expected in the poll.
Loan losses rose to 196 million crowns, compared with 187 in the year-prior period but was better than the expected 404 million crown loss in the analyst poll.
The bank said its ongoing work to improve efficiency continued according to plan. Total expenses decreased by 12 percent to 4.50 billion crowns, better than the expected 4.64 billion in the poll.
Net commission income rose 4 percent to 2.35 billion crowns from 2.17 billion a year earlier and 2.33 billion in the poll.
The banks capitalisation, the common equity tier 1 ratio, increased to 23.8 percent from 22.7 percent a year earlier. ($1 = 8.7639 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Niklas Pollard)