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(Adds loan book, return on equity, details)
SAO PAULO, May 4 (Reuters) - Banco Bradesco SA, Brazil's second-biggest private lender, on Tuesday posted a 73.6% rise in first-quarter profit, beating estimates, as provisions for bad loans and costs both fell.
Recurring net income, which excludes one-off items, rose to 6.515 billion reais ($1.20 billion), beating a consensus estimate of 6.019 billion reais compiled by Refinitiv.
Profit was boosted by a a 41.8% drop in loan-loss provisions. Chief Executive Octavio de Lazari had said in February that 2021 would be a "year of recovery," after the bank last year added 9.1 billion reais on top of its normal provisioning to deal with potential losses from the pandemic.
Bradesco also kept a tight grip on costs. Operating expenses fell 4.7% from a year earlier, as the bank closed 1,088 branches and slashed headcount by more than 8,500 people.
Its recurring return on equity, a gauge of profitability, rose to 18.7%, up 7 percentage points from a year ago.
Bradesco's loan book grew by 2.6% from the fourth quarter, while its 90-day default ratio rose to 2.5% from 2.2%. ($1 = 5.4445 reais) (Reporting by Carolina Mandl; Editing by Christian Plumb)