(Bloomberg) -- Europe’s largest banks exceeded €100 billion ($108 billion) in profit for the first time last year as the lift from rising interest rates handed most of them record earnings.

The combined net income of the 20 biggest continental European banks that have reported results soared to €103 billion from €78 billion in the previous year. Three-quarters of the lenders in the group achieved the highest profit in their history, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. 

The surge in profitability has allowed banks to ratchet up the amount of money they’re returning to investors and bolstered their shares, with an index of the region’s lenders gaining about 20% last year. While the massive profit jump will be hard to repeat as the tailwind from rates lets up, many banks are optimistic that rising fee income will enable them to keep growing the bottom line.

The sample used by Bloomberg doesn’t include UBS Group AG, whose profit surged to $29 billion last year on the back of its acquisition of Credit Suisse. 

--With assistance from Sonia Sirletti, Love Liman, Sarah Jacob, Alexandre Rajbhandari, Macarena Muñoz and Marton Eder.

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