Profits rise at mainland China banks but headwinds hit growth
China's economic slowdown cuts earnings growth from pace of recent years
Jane Cai in Beijing and Kanis Li
The mainland's three largest banks yesterday posted first-quarter growth in net profit ranging from just over 8 per cent to almost 16 per cent year on year.
Those increases were smaller than last year's as the lenders felt the effects of the country's economic slowdown.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world's biggest bank by assets, said its net earnings rose 12.08 per cent year on year to 68.74 billion yuan (HK$86.56 billion) on robust growth in net fee and commission income.
China Construction Bank (CCB), the mainland's second-biggest lender by assets, posted a 15.66 per cent increase in net profit to 59.58 billion yuan.
Agricultural Bank of China, the third-largest, said its net earnings rose 8.19 per cent to 47.01 billion yuan.
Earnings growth at mainland banks is starting to slow from the skyrocketing pace of the past few years as the economy cools. Ongoing interest rate liberalisation will spell an end to the days when banks could simply sit on lucrative interest rate spreads.
"The economic recovery is still shaky, and monetary policy is unlikely to be further loosened, which means banks will have a stable year, with profits up an average 8 per cent," said Dai Zhifeng, an analyst at Shanghai-based Haitong Securities.
At ICBC, profit growth beat the 10 per cent expected by many analysts, but slowed from the 14.5 per cent rate of all of last year.
ICBC's net interest income grew 8 per cent from a year ago, and its net fee and commission income jumped 19 per cent.
Loans and advances grew 5.24 per cent. By the end of last month, The bank's non-performing loans (NPL) increased 7.6 per cent over the quarter to 80.2 billion yuan, and the NPL ratio rose 0.02 percentage point to 0.87 per cent. Provisions for loan impairment loss increased 4.9 per cent over the quarter.
ICBC shares fell 0.74 per cent to 4.05 yuan in Shanghai yesterday before the results, but rose 0.75 per cent to HK$5.41 in Hong Kong. Shares of CCB dropped 0.64 per cent to 4.65 yuan in Shanghai but rose 0.79 per cent in Hong Kong to HK$6.38. Shares of Agricultural Bank declined 0.74 per cent to 2.69 yuan but rallied 1.65 per cent to HK$3.69.
CCB's net interest income rose 12.44 per cent, and its net fee and commission income jumped 18.9 per cent. Loans and advances grew 4.63 per cent. By the end of March, its NPL had increased 4.2 per cent over the quarter to 77.8 billion yuan, but its NPL ratio remained at 0.99 per cent.
Profit growth at Agricultural Bank slowed significantly from 19 per cent for the whole of last year, as net interest income grew only 4 per cent. Impairment losses on assets increased 17 per cent year on year to 12.44 billion yuan.
Net profit at China Citic Bank rose 7.65 per cent to 9.21 billion yuan in the first quarter.