NICOSIA (Reuters) – Bank of Cyprus, Cyprus’s largest lender, said yesterday first-quarter net profit grew 9.0 percent to 116 million euros on the back of strong credit growth. Group net interest income in the first quarter rose 8.0 percent to 185 million euros. «This performance is regarded as satisfactory considering the adverse conditions prevailing in the global banking environment,» the bank said in a statement. Financial performance to date is in line with targets set out in a three-year plan, the group said without elaborating. Two weeks ago, bank executives told a shareholder meeting they were sticking to their 2008 profit outlook, which is 540 million euros for the year. «The group is taking measures to offset the negative impact from the continuous pressure on liability spreads,» it said. It included repricing some loan products, and the faster expansion of the group into new markets with higher margins. It said it registered strong credit expansion in Cyprus and Greece, lifting the annual increase of the group’s loan portfolio by 29 percent. Group deposits rose 12 percent annually. Bank of Cyprus has operations in Greece and recently started expanding into Eastern Europe. Last year it opened in Russia and on Monday it concluded a deal to acquire 97.2 percent of Ukraine’s AvtoZAZBank for 57.9 million euros in cash. Group operations in Russia and Romania made a positive contribution to profits for the first time. The bank said it made a 0.2-million-euro net profit in Russia for the first quarter and a 1.3-million-euro net profit in Romania for the same period.