Bank of Cyprus (BoC), the island’s largest lender, reported stronger-than-expected 2008 profits and set aggressive goals for this year, sending its shares higher. Provisional data made public yesterday showed a 4 percent annual rise in BoC’s net profits to 506 million euros, beating the expected 490-million-euro estimate. BoC said the figure included a one-off foreign exchange gain of 90 million euros and a 5-million-euro contribution from its recently acquired Russian operations. «The group maintained high profit levels, despite the negative international environment,» it said. In June last year, BoC bought a majority stake in Russia’s Uniastrum Bank for 371 million euros, the country’s ninth-largest lender, only months before unprecedented market turmoil rocked bourses worldwide. BoC is also present in Australia, Britain and Romania. Looking toward 2009, the Cypriot bank said its expects full-year net profits of 300 to 400 million euros, with Uniastrum to show net income of 25 million euros, up from 16 million last year. Brokers said they see the full-year figure as «closer to the low end of the range given.» «Additionally, the targeted profit figure from Russia is optimistic,» said an analyst from a leading Athens brokerage. BoC shares added 1.82 percent to 2.24 euros, outperforming a 0.24 percent rise on the Athens bourse’s benchmark general index. BoC will release audited figures on February 25.