* BBVA profit up 146 pct y/y to 1.54 bln eur
* Boosted by CITIC stake sale, offsets Venezuela hit
* Revenue trends steady but analysts see margin pressure
* Shares fall 1 percent (Recasts with Venezuela troubles, adds analyst quote)
By Sarah White and Jesús Aguado
MADRID, April 29 (Reuters) - Net profit more than doubled at Spanish lender BBVA in the first quarter from a year ago, as growth in Mexico and one-off gains offset a hit from currency devaluation in Venezuela.
Like Spanish peer Santander, BBVA makes more than 80 percent of its profit overseas, a model that helped it to counter a double-dip recession at home in recent years.
Mexico contributed 44 percent to profit in the first quarter and helped drive a 7 percent rise in gross lending across the bank, Spain’s second-biggest by market value.
While this put BBVA under less pressure than most domestic rivals to ramp up Spanish earnings, it also exposes its balance sheet to emerging markets volatility.
BBVA devalued the exchange rate it applies to Venezuela by 93 percent, a move welcomed by analysts as an attempt to draw a line under currency turmoil there.
Yet it dragged on the group’s net interest income (NII), or earnings from loans minus deposit costs, which came in lower than expected by analysts at 3.66 billion euros ($4 billion) although they rose 8 percent year on year.
Meanwhile BBVA’s profits were boosted by a 520 million euro capital gain in China, where it continued to sell off its stake in CITIC Bank. Net profit rose 146 percent from a year ago to 1.54 billion euros, exceeding expectations.
As it bets strongly on other emerging markets such as Turkey, BBVA is also investing in Spain, where it has just sealed the acquisition of bailed out peer Catalunya Caixa.
Its strategy is so far paying off on some fronts, and return on equity, a measure of profitability, jumped from 5.6 percent in December to 9 percent at the end of March. Analysts also said revenue trends were encouraging, Venezuela notwithstanding.
Like at Santander and Caixabank there were, however, signs that BBVA’s margins were being squeezed, including in its key Mexican market.
“Mexico (profits) beat consensus with stronger loan growth ... though margins here too are under pressure,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Noble said in a note.
BBVA shares were down 1.1 percent at 0840 GMT, underperforming a falling Spanish market.
$1 = 0.9102 euros Editing by Julien Toyer and Mark Potter