Bank Audi reported Thursday a 4.5 percent increase in net earnings in the first quarter of 2012, with earnings reaching $94.5 million. Bank Audi said the performance of Lebanon’s banking sector during the quarter had been “satisfactory” and that the country’s economy had improved, albeit not to levels seen prior to the eruption of “regional turmoil.” “Bank Audi achieved a good performance in the first quarter of 2012, with consolidated unaudited net earnings of $94.5 million, rising by 4.5 percent relative to the first quarter of 2011, despite the allocation of collective provisions of $31.2 million,” the bank said in a statement. According to the report, Bank Audi’s consolidated assets grew to $28.7 billion at the end of March 2012, despite the contraction of assets of Bank Audi Syria by 52 percent during the same period. The bank’s consolidated deposits reached $24.4 billion. Bank Audi’s consolidated assets grew to $28.7 billion at the end of March 2012, despite the contraction of assets of Bank Audi Syria by 52 percent during the same period, the report added. The bank’s consolidated deposits amounted to $24.4 billion. The report said the economy had improved in the first quarter of 2012, but fell short of resuming its 2009 and 2010 performance. The overall performance of the economy is in line with the IMF real growth forecast for 2012 at 3.5 percent, the report highlighted. “The banking sector started the year with a somehow satisfactory performance, as suggested by its main activity growth indicators, with bank deposits growing by $1.7 billion and bank loans rising by $1.1 billion over the first two months of 2012,” the statement said. However, Audi’s report added that the overall conditions continue to be tough for the Lebanese banking sector as domestic and external risks persist. “[These are] characterized by pressures on spreads and margins, slow fee income growth generation and growing provision requirements as a precautionary measure facing regional developments’ spillovers,” the statement said. Capital inflows to Lebanon continued at a relatively slower pace as they remained under the direct impact of regional political turmoil and its economic repercussions, the report said. These risks impose a particularly challenging environment for Lebanese banks with regional subsidies, the report said. It added that regional economies continued to display uneven performances in the first quarter of 2012. While many Gulf Cooperation Council countries have managed to improve their economies on higher oil prices and domestic stimulus packages, other countries continue to suffer economically from the repercussions of persistent political crises, the report said. It noted that growth drivers in the region remain largely domestic, as external growth drivers continue to suffer from the relatively sluggish recovery of the international economy. According to figures issued in the report, the bank’s doubtful loans accounted for no more than 2.7 percent of the gross loans made by the bank. The coverage of loans granted by the bank improved from 77.3 percent at the end of December 2011 to 81.9 percent at the end of March 2012. The doubtful loans to gross loans ratio, the bank reported, had improved from 0.66 percent to 0.49 percent over the same period. The statement highlighted that Audi’s primary liquidity deposited at central banks and other private banks reached $12.4 billion, which represents some 50.9 percent of the bank’s total customer deposits.