China’s Banks Post Flat Profit Growth as Bad Debts Rise

by Engen Tham and Matthew Miller

Four of China’s five largest state-owned banks barely posted any growth in profit in the first quarter, as widely expected, with rising bad debt and narrower margins hitting their bottom lines.

The country’s banks face challenges from both defaulting borrowers, who are struggling amid a slowing economy, and successive cuts in interest rates which have eaten away at margins.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) (601398.SS) (1398.HK), China’s biggest lender by assets, announced a 0.6 percent rise in net profit on Thursday.

Bank of Communications Co Ltd (BoCom)(601328.SS)(3328.HK) posted a 0.5 percent rise in net profit in the first quarter and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd (AgBank) (601288.SS)(1288.HK) a slightly better 1.1 percent rise in profit.

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