Belgian-Dutch financial group Fortis has posted a 25% rise in net profits before divestments for the first quarter, thanks largely to strong performance from the group's banking division.

In the first quarter of last year net profit amounted to E1.5 billion, benefiting from a E443 million one-off contribution relating to the sale of Assurant. In the first quarter of 2006, when no divestments were made, Fortis posted net profit of E1.3 billion. Earnings per share came to E1.03.

The banking division posted a net profit of E1.04 billion, an increase of 31% compared to the same period last year. The group said that the sharp increase reflected strong top-line revenue growth, continued modest impairments and a low tax rate.

At insurance, net profit was also in double-digit figures, with a rise of 11% to E339 million. Sales of life insurance was the biggest contributor in this division, with net profit rising 16% to E221 million.

Fortis CEO Jean-Paul Votron said: After a very good 2005, these strong first quarter results demonstrate the earnings power of Fortis and the successful implementation of our strategy. Sustained commercial activity and buoyant conditions drove profitable growth in both banking and insurance.