Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, Spain's second-biggest lender, said bad loans stabilized as higher earnings from wholesale banking kept first-quarter profit little changed.

Net income was $1.64 billion, compared with $1.61 billion a year earlier, the Bilbao banking company said Wednesday. That beat the median $1.52 billion estimate in a survey of 10 analysts.

BBVA's bad loans were 4.3% of total lending, unchanged from December. Nonperforming assets on its books climbed to $20.7 billion, from $20.3 billion in December and about $13.7 billion a year earlier.

The Spanish bank is targeting growth in Mexico, its second-biggest market, and the southern U.S., where it is developing an operation built on its $9 billion purchase in 2007 of Compass Bancshares Inc. in Birmingham, Ala.

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