LEVIS, Que. – Desjardins Group says surplus earnings shank almost 24 per cent in the fourth quarter despite a slight rise in operating income.

Quebec’s largest financial institution reported Friday that surplus earnings were $325 million in the three months ended Dec. 31, down from $427 million for the same period of 2011 as return on equity slid to 7.3 per cent from 11.9 per cent.

Operating revenue rose 1.5 per cent to $2.86 billion from $2.81 billion.

For the full year, Desjardins reported surplus earnings of $1.59 billion as operating income rose 3.3 per cent to $11.3 billion from $10.93 billion in 2011 when earnings were $1.58 billion.

Return on equity fell to 10.4 per cent from 12.2 per cent as a result of an increase in equity following the issuance of $1 billion of capital shares in the federation and growth in retained earnings, Desjardins said in a release.

Assets increased 3.5 per cent over the year to $196.7 billion from $190.1 billion.

“I am very satisfied with the financial performance of our co-operative financial group in 2012,” said president, chairman and CEO Monique F. Leroux.

“It demonstrates the depth of our members’ and clients’ trust, year after year, and how Desjardins Group’s offer adds value. We worked on improving our service offer throughout the year, both in the personal services and institutional services segment and in wealth management and insurance.”