BNP Paribas, France’s biggest bank, reported a better-than-expected rise in first-quarter profit Friday after the sale of shares in real estate investment company Klepierre.

“All-in-all this was a strong performance both in terms of banking revenues and net result. Those are the strongest results throughout Europe in the banking industry in the first quarter,” Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, chief executive of BNP Paribas[BNP-FR 29.095 — UNCH (0) ], told “Squawk Box Europe.”

BNP reported net income of 2.87 billion euros ($3.77 billion) for the first three months of 2012, a rise of 9.6 percent from the same time last year and higher than Reuters forecasts for 2.3 billion euros.

The picture for group revenue was worse, as the euro zone debt crisis continued to bite, and BNP was hit by accounting charges. Group revenue fell by a higher-than-expected 15.4 percent to 9.89 billion euros.

“We have started the deleveraging process (in part of the investment bank) and thus revenues are down in that part of the group,” Bonnafé said. “The quality of the BNP Paribas debt improved a lot in the first quarter.”

BNP's core Tier 1 capital ratio, which it is hoping to reduce to 9 percent by January when the Basel III regime for banks comes in, rose to 10.4 percent from 9.6 percent.