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ICBC and ABC post profit rise

THE Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country's biggest commercial lender by assets, said yesterday that its quarterly profit rose 6 percent from a year earlier despite a double-digit fall in interest income.

Profit for the three months ended March 31 was 35.1 billion yuan (US$5.1 billion), or 0.11 yuan per share, the Beijing-based lender said.

Net interest income fell 12.9 percent from a year earlier to 57.8 billion yuan as the spread between benchmark rates and financial market rates narrowed, the bank said. Other lenders have suffered a similar squeeze after repeated rate cuts by China's central bank amid the global financial crisis.

ICBC's fee and commission income for the quarter rose 9.7 percent to 13.5 billion yuan, the bank said.

The bank reported a 35.2-percent increase in annual profit in 2008 but warned of "severe challenges" this year.

The Agricultural Bank of China, the country's main state-owned rural lender, said yesterday that its net profit rose 17.5 percent in 2008 while a restructuring slashed holdings of nonperforming loans.

The Beijing-based bank is the last of four major state lenders to be restructured into shareholding firms for listing on China's stock exchanges, but no date has been picked for its initial public offering.

The bank said net profit in 2008 was 51.45 billion yuan, with revenue up nearly 18 percent to 211.2 billion yuan.


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