ABU DHABI- First Abu Dhabi Bank, the largest bank in the United Arab Emirates, on Monday reported a 3.6 percent rise in first quarter profit driven by higher foreign exchange and investment income.

FAB made a net profit of 3.11 billion dirhams ($846.79 million) in the three months ending March 31, up from 3.0 billion a year earlier, it said in a statement.

SICO Bahrain had projected a net profit of 3.067 billion dirhams for the lender.

"Our performance during the first three months of 2019 has created a robust foundation for sustained growth momentum and we remain optimistic about the remainder of the year," CEO Abdulhamid Saeed said.

Forex and investment income rose 49 percent to 971 million dirhams, lifting operating income to 4.94 billion dirhams, up one percent on the year.

Loans and advances were up 2 percent to 359 billion dirhams at the end of the quarter versus end-December.

Customer deposits of 433 billion dirhams were down 7 percent from end-December due to short-term deposit outflows.

The bank booked impairment charges of 407 million dirhams in quarter, down 7 percent from a year earlier.

FAB's total assets stood at 733 billion dirhams end of quarter, down 1 percent from end-December.

This month FAB received approval to increase its foreign ownership limit to 40 percent from 25 percent.

($1 = 3.6727 UAE dirham)

(Reporting by Stanley Carvalho; editing by Jason Neely) ((stanley.carvalho@thomsonreuters.com; + 9712 6444431; Reuters Messaging: stanley.carvalho.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))