DUBAI- Samba Financial Group's first quarter net profit fell 7.4 percent year-on-year, Saudi Arabia's third-largest bank by assets said in a statement on Thursday.

The bank, which made a net profit of 1.2 billion riyals ($320.00 million) in the first three months of the year, said the drop was due to an increase in total operating expenses, which rose 55.7 percent mainly because of an increase in provisions for credit impairments.

Samba ranks behind National Commercial Bank (NCB) and al Rajhi among Saudi banks by total assets.

Its chief executive, Rania Nashar, told Reuters earlier this month the bank would increase consumer lending to tap opportunities in mortgages and financing for small to medium sized firms. 

($1 = 3.7500 riyals)

(Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Mark Potter) ((; +971522604297; Reuters Messaging: