KARACHI - The United Bank Limited closed Q1, 2010 with profit after tax of Rs 2.8 billion, reflecting a 10 per cent growth over a similar period last year. Earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter amounted to Rs 2.50. This performance of the Bank was in line with its long-term objective of delivering consistent returns and was made possible by growing low-cost-deposits, reducing operating expenses, as well as through prudent risk-management. Net interest income before provisions at Rs.8.1 billion ended 3% above Q1, 2009 as a result of an increase in net interest margins (NIM) by 30 basis points compared to last year. As a consequence, operating revenue at Rs.10.6 billion ended higher by 4% compared to last year. Provisions during the quarter were lower at Rs.2.1 billion compared to Rs.2.2 billion at the end of Q1, 2009 and also lower than the quarterly provision expense in each of the last three quarters. Administrative expenses grew 4% over the same period last year mainly on account of higher premises and personnel cost. The increase in personnel cost, however, was only 1% because of a 6% reduction in headcount, achieved through efficiency improvements, process restructuring initiatives and reduction in the infrastructure cost of the consumer business. Nearly 50% of the increase in premises cost was on account of higher gas, electricity and insurance charges. Total assets declined by Rs.34 billion to Rs.586 billion during the first quarter whereas investments grew by 4% to Rs.141 billion. Among the notable developments during the quarter under review was the progress made by Signature UBL Priority Banking - a service launched in November 2009 - that crossed several important milestones and closed the quarter with Rs.660 million in low cost deposits from the 4 lounges currently in operation, and a total of about 350 customer accounts. UBL Wiz cards crossed the 100,000 cards milestone with a float in excess of Rs.130 million in a period of just under 18 months since its launch. Progress was also made with respect to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) project initiated last year in the northern areas of the country. The number of UBL Wallet Visa Debit Cards issued to families of IDPs rose to 335,000 at the end of Q1, 2010. Under a new initiative, the bank started placing 200 electronic Point-of-Sale (POS) machines provided by VISA International at retail outlets in cities such as D.I.Khan, Mardan, Mingora, Batkhela and Peshawar, to assist IDPs in the purchase of food supplies and items of daily use.