MILANO, May 9 (Reuters) – BPER Banca (EMII.MI) said on Tuesday it was on track to meet its 2022-2025 financial targets earlier than expected after first-quarter net profits more then doubled on higher interest rates.

Italy’s fourth-largest bank reported a net profit of 290.7 million euros ($320 million), jumping from 113 million euros a year earlier, and above analysts’ consensus forecast of 225 million compiled by Reuters.

Income from its lending business rose 92.9% from a year earlier to 726 million euros, outpacing expectations, boosted by higher rates and the recent acquisition of smaller peer Banca Carige.

Net fees increased 12.3% year-on-year thanks also to sales of insurance products, but decreased 3.4% in the previous quarter due in part to seasonal factors.

The boost from higher rates would continue to drive higher profits and the lenders forecast 2.5 billion euros in net interest income this year, raising its previous guidance of 2.2 billion, BPER Banca CEO Piero Montani told analysts in a post-results conference call.

The lender aims to achieve this year the 800 million euro profit target originally set in its business plan for 2025, the CEO said, adding he was “always very cautious” about estimates as the market scenario can change quickly.

BPER said it planned to sell a non-performing loan with a gross book value of more than 400 million euros.

Core capital strengthened in the quarter to 13.3% of risk-weighted assets (RWAs), up from 12% at the end of last year.

($1 = 0.9084 euros)

Reporting by Andrea MandalĂ , editing by Alvise Armellini

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