May 13 (Reuters) - Georgia's largest retail lender TBC Bank Group said on Monday that first-quarter earnings surged 36.7 percent, the biggest jump in seven quarters, as its loan book grew on the back of a stable economy.
The bank, which listed in London in 2016 to gain more access to a global investor base, said net profit advanced to 133.3 million laris ($48.83 million), for the three months ended March 31, from 97.5 million laris reported a year earlier.
TBC, which serves retail, corporate and small and medium-sized enterprise customers across the country, said gross loans and advances to customers rose 22.9 percent to 10.37 billion laris from last year.
Economic growth in Georgia, a former Soviet republic, slowed in the first quarter, but jumped 6 percent in March.
Historically, economic strength in the country has helped TBC and its main rival Bank of Georgia enjoy strong lending growth, which in turn has bolstered profits.
Tbilisi-based TBC's net interest margin - the main indicator of a bank's financial strength - slipped to 6.1 percent from 6.9 percent.
The FTSE 250-listed lender, which was started nearly a quarter century ago with just $500 in capital, said its market share of total deposits reached 40.4 percent as of March 31, 1.5 percentage points higher than a year earlier.
After becoming Georgia's biggest retail lender following its purchase of JSC Bank Republic a few years ago, TBC now has roughly 2.4 million customers and around 7,300 employees. ($1 = 2.7300 laris) (Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)