Rapid lending helps ABC profits climb

09:35, November 11, 2009      

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Agricultural Bank of China (ABC), the only "Big Four" Chinese lender yet to be listed, has reported decent profit growth in the first three quarters, backed by rapid lending expansion that has added impetus to its drive for an eventual stock market listing.

The bank, which has been restructuring along commercial lines for years, saw its net profits climbing to 49.7 billion yuan in the first three quarters, up 13 percent from a year earlier, while its total assets amounted to 8.6 trillion yuan as of the end of September, more than the 8.3-trillion yuan in total assets held by Bank of China, the nation's third largest listed lender.

"Rapid assets and loan expansion have served as the backbone underpinning the bank's profitability so far this year," Fu Lichun, banking analyst with Southwest Securities, told China Daily.

The declining trend in interest spreads has shown signs of tapering off in the second half, which helped the bank post better profits, ABC said in a statement posted on its website.

ABC issued fresh loans worth 939.4 billion yuan in the first nine months, up 30.5 percent from a year ago.

That was one-fifth the total amount of new loans extended by the nation's five major banks (the "Big Four" banks plus Bank of Communications) during the same period.

In response to the nation's call to help shore up the slowing economy, Chinese banks have extended 9.35 trillion yuan in new loans during the nine months ended September, of which the five major banks accounted for 47.4 percent, according to data released by the nation's top banking watchdog.

ABC, which had a record bad loan ratio of 23.5 percent in 2007, has seen its asset quality improve in recent years.

The bank wiped off 800 billion yuan in bad assets late last year and received $19 billion in capital injection from Central Huijin, the nation's sovereign wealth fund, in an effort to boost its capital adequacy and prepare itself for an eventual pubic listing next year.

ABC's bad loans ratio declined to 2.65 percent as of end-September, down 1.67 percentage points from the beginning of the year, but higher than other Chinese commercial lenders' average bad loan ratio of 1.66 percent. The bank's bad loan provision ratio was raised to 103.2 percent by September-end, compared with the industry average of 144.1 percent.

Source:China Daily
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