RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's Riyad Bank posted a 5.5 percent rise in its first-quarter profits on Sunday, beating analysts' forecasts.

The kingdom's third-largest listed bank by market value said in a bourse statement that it made 951 million riyals ($254 million) in the three months ended March 31, compared with 901 million riyals in the same period a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters expected the bank to post an average of 876 million riyals for the first quarter.

Riyad Bank attributed the rise in profits to higher operating income, without providing further explanation. Operating income for the quarter rose by 4.9 percent to 1.73 billion riyals.

A spokesman for the bank could not immediately be reached for further comment.

Profits from special commissions rose by 2.1 percent to 1.09 billion riyals.

Loans and advances increased by 6.4 percent to 121 billion riyals at the end of March from the same point of 2012.

In a March 26 research note, Arqaam Capital forecast lending growth for Riyad Bank of around 7 percent over the course of 2013. Growth will be sluggish, given the bank's conservative approach to risk and its desire to maintain net interest margins, it said. Total assets at the end of the first quarter were 186 billion riyals, 1.7 percent higher the year before, while customer deposits gained 3.2 percent to 144 billion riyals. ($1 = 3.7502 Saudi riyals)