Spain's state-rescued lender Bankia has today posted a forecast-beating 12.8% rise in first-quarter net profit to €244m, though low interest rates weighed on the bank's performance. 

Net interest income, the difference between what a bank makes on loans and what it pays out on deposits, came in at €693m. 

This was down 0.6% and missed a €701m forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts. 

The bank, once a symbol of Spain's financial crisis after receiving a €22 billion bailout, is seeking strong growth this year and last week approved payment of the first dividend in its short but troubled history. 

Bankia is targeting group profit of about €1.2 billion this year compared to €747m last year, when the bank set aside €312m to cover compensation claims from investors who bought into its ill-fated 2011 flotation. 

The lender, which is still grappling with the fallout from the listing, aims to increase lending to small businesses by 10% this year, looking a return on equity (ROE) profitability ratio of at least 10%. 

Its ROE ratio was 8.7% at the end of March, up from 8.6% three months earlier. 

The bank said its lending was slightly down in the quarter as the bank continued to reduce its exposure to the property sector, though lending to companies and consumers increased. 

Progress was also made on bad debt, a key concern for the bank in the past. Its bad loan ratio dropped to 12.6% at the end of March from 12.9% at December 31. 

Bankia said its core capital ratio under full Basel III criteria rose to 11.01% from 10.6% at the end of the previous quarter.