* Jan-Sept 2012 net profit $131.8 million
* Net interest income rises, gains on forex, precious metals
* NPLs account for 28.7 pct of gross loans
ALMATY, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Kazakh lender Kazkommertsbank said nine-month net profit rose 9.4 percent year-on-year, bolstered by higher net interest income and a gain on its foreign exchange and precious metals operations.
Kazkommertsbank, which vies with Halyk Bank to be the largest lender in Kazakhstan by assets, said in a statement on Friday that net profit reached 19.6 billion tenge ($131.8 million) in the first nine months of the year.
Net interest income before provisions for impairment losses rose by 6 percent to 91.5 billion tenge, while other income more than quadrupled due largely to gains on the bank's foreign exchange and precious metals operations.
These gains were partly offset by a 2 percent year-on-year increase in operating expenses.
Persistent bad loans continue to hamper the recovery of Kazakhstan's banking sector, hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2007-08 which laid bare banks' exposure to bloated real estate markets and their reliance on external funding.
Ninety-day non-performing loans (NPLs) still account for more than 30 percent of the cumulative portfolio of the country's 38 banks.
Kazkommertsbank said NPLs accounted for 28.7 percent of its gross loans as of Sept. 30, compared with 28.6 percent at the end of 2011. The bank's adjusted net interest margin increased to 3.8 percent.
Kazkommertsbank, which operates subsidiaries in Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, had total assets of 2.56 trillion tenge ($17.0 billion) as of Sept. 30.
Though it regularly trades first place with Halyk Bank in terms of total assets, Halyk is more profitable, with net profit of almost 54 billion tenge ($359 million) in the first nine months. (Reporting by Robin Paxton; Editing by Mike Nesbit)