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Zions Bancorp. Thursday reported net income of $16 million or $1.09 per share in the first quarter, up 28.6 percent and 25.3 percent, respectively, over the first quarter of 1994.

Return on average shareholders' equity during the first quarter was 17.38 percent, up from 15.98 percent in the same period last year.Harris H. Simmons, president and CEO, said the equity increase came despite a stronger equity base, as shareholders' equity increased 19.5 percent to $381 million.

Average shareholders' equity to average assets during the quarter was 7.16 percent, up from 5.92 percent a year ago. Simmons noted the stronger profitability was achieved despite a previously announced $3 million loss in the company's trading account during the first quarter of 1995, as well as a $1.3 million charge associated with the closing of Zions First National Bank's capital markets operation in New York City.

Simmons said those operations will be transferred to the bank's Salt Lake headquarters during the second quarter.

Simmons said the company enjoyed excellent credit quality during the first quarter as nonper- forming assets were reduced to $14.5 million, or 0.59 percent of total loans, leases and other real estate owned, down from 0.99 percent a year ago.

Simultaneously, Zions' reserve for loan losses strengthened slightly during the quarter.

Simmons said he was optimistic that the financial services company's strong results would continue through 1995, noting that the Intermountain economy continues to perform strongly with continued strong growth in quality jobs throughout the region.