Malaysia's biggest listed firm, Malayan Banking, posted a better-than-expected 28 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit on Wednesday, helped by growth in net interest, insurance and credit card income.

Maybank expects to record better performance in the financial year 2007/2008, benefiting from state projects launched under a five-year development plan, it said.

We remain confident of taking advantage of the conducive operating environment to further strengthen and expand the group's business franchise, Chief Executive Amirsham Aziz told reporters and analysts.

Maybank's strong results tracked the performance of most Southeast Asian banks which unveiled strong quarterly earnings, after lending was lifted by strong economic growth and buoyant stock markets boosted fees and other non-interest income.

State-controlled Maybank posted net profit of 1.08 billion ringgit ($308.9 million) on revenue of 3.79 billion ringgit for the three months to end-June, compared with a profit of 840.6 million ringgit on revenue of 2.99 billion ringgit a year ago.

Maybank had been expected to report net profit of about 940 million ringgit in its final quarter, after posting nine-month net profit of 2.12 billion ringgit.

A consensus estimate of analysts polled by Reuters estimated Maybank's full-year net profit for fiscal 2007 at 3.06 billion ringgit or 80.06 sen a share.

Net profit in the current fiscal year is expected to rise 10 percent to 3.38 billion ringgit as the economy grows at around 6 percent.

Malaysia's biggest lender said it had no direct exposure to the problems in the U.S. subprime mortgage market, but had an indirect exposure of about $95 million from dealing with companies involved in mortgage lending.

The crisis in the U.S. subprime mortgage market is not expected to dent the group's business prospects nor constrain its operational capability in view of the group's relatively insignificant exposure to this segment, Amirsham said.

Amirsham has voiced hopes of generating a third of Maybank's profits from abroad within three years but the bank has yet to announce an acquisition, stoking concerns it may be moving too slowly.

Other than a pact with Indonesia's Panin Life to develop Islamic-compliant insurance products, little else has happened this year, despite Maybank making no secret of its desire to buy lenders in Southeast Asia, South Asia or China to spur growth.

Maybank, Malaysia's most valuable listed company and seen as a proxy for the health of the economy, is a staple stock among foreign investors in Malaysian equities. It has a market value of around $13 billion.

Maybank shares fell 6.3 percent in the April-June quarter, lagging an 8.6 percent gain in the main stock index.

The stock trades at about 15 times forecast earnings, compared with 12 times for Singapore rival DBS Group Holdings and 16 times for local rival Bumiputra-Commerce Holdings Bhd, Reuters data shows.

Maybank announced a final dividend of 40 Malaysian cents per share, against 50 cents in the year-earlier period.