BNP Paribas today posted better than expected 17.5% growth in first-quarter net income as the French bank saw a long-awaited revival in euro zone loan demand. 

Boosted by firm investement banking activity, France's biggest bank reported net income of €1.648 billion, up from €1.403 billion in the first three months of 2014. 

The result, which included a €245m contribution to a new European fund to handle failed banks, topped analysts' average expectation for €1.458 billion in a Thomson Reuters poll. 

Revenue, a fifth of which comes from dollars, grew 11.6% to €11.065 billion as the European currency fell to a 12-year low against the dollar. 

"The gradual recovery in demand for loans in the euro zone, good business growth in America and in Asia, and the strong business of major clients in capital markets sustained revenue growth," chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said.

In a sign of reviving euro zone credit demand, the European Central Bank said this week that lending to firms and businesses across the 19-nation currency union rose for the first time in three years in March. 

BNP Paribas' corporate banking division saw overall client loans rise 12.1% in the first quarter, helping offset a contraction in lending to the oil and commodities sector as it cuts debt amid low oil prices. 

The division saw its revenue rise 23.7%, benefiting from brisk trading in equity and foreign exchange markets as well as booming bond and equity issuance, and a rebound in merger and acquisition activity.