UPDATE 2-Krung Thai Q4 profit growth lags rivals; sector outlook positive
* Krung Thai Q4 net profit 931 mln baht, up 15 pct y/y
* SCB Q4 net profit 9.7 bln baht, up 45 pct y/y
* Krung Thai books higher loan-loss provisions in Q4
* Thai loan demand growth to continue in 2013 - analysts
* Thai bank index outperformed market in past year (Adds Siam Commercial earnings, details)
By Khettiya Jittapong
BANGKOK, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Krung Thai Bank posted the slowest quarterly profit growth among Thailand's biggest banks due to hefty loan-loss provisions, but analysts were upbeat about the sector outlook given the country's economic growth and government stimulus.
Most major Thai banks, such as top lender Bangkok Bank PCL , have reported at least double-digit rises in quarterly net profit, helped by strong lending growth and a low comparative base a year earlier when the Southeast Asian country had been hit by severe flooding.
Consumer loans will remain solid this year, bolstered by government incentives such as tax rebates for first-time car buyers, and appetite for investments from both the private and public sectors will continue to rise, analysts said.
"We expect loan demand from every sector with estimated loan growth of 10 percent this year versus 13 percent last year," said Thaninee Satirareungchai, an analyst at KGI Securities, referring to loan growth for the Thai banking industry.
State-owned Krung Thai, the country's second-biggest lender by assets, reported on Monday a net profit of 931 million baht ($30.5 million) for October-December. That was up 15 percent from 805 million baht a year earlier, but missed the average estimate of 4.6 billion baht in a Reuters poll of 11 analysts.
For 2012, Krung Thai had a net profit of 23.6 billion baht, up 38 percent from 17.03 billion baht in the prior year.
Krung Thai set aside additional loan-loss provisions of 9 billion baht in the fourth quarter, on top of normal provisions of 1.5 billion baht per quarter, as a precautionary measure to weather any economic uncertainty, the company said.
After the earnings announcement, Krung Thai shares closed down nearly 1 percent. They fell about 2 percent earlier, following a local newspaper report that the government planned to sell part of its 55 percent stake in the bank. The state fund said it has no plans to do so at this point.
Krung Thai shares have advanced nearly 50 percent in the past year, in line with a 47 percent gain of the banking index , and outperforming a 36 percent rise of the market .
Also on Monday, Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), the country's third-largest lender, reported a fourth-quarter net profit of 9.7 billion baht, up 45 percent from 6.7 billion a year earlier. That compared with the average forecast of 9.4 billion baht from 11 analysts polled by Reuters.
Shares of SCB, which hit a 17-year high of 186 baht earlier this month, closed up 0.6 percent before the earnings announcement.
Fifth-ranked Bank of Ayudhya reported on Friday the highest growth in quarterly earnings among Thailand's top five banks, with net profit jumping seven times from a year earlier.
Bank of Ayudhya, which specialises in the retail and consumer lending business, had fourth-quarter loan growth of 15 percent, mainly driven by demand for auto loans, credit cards and loans to small and medium-sized businesses.
Strong lending growth, especially from the retail and household sectors, has raised concerns about potential rises in bad loans, although the central bank has said that strong credit growth in Thailand is not a big concern now.
Credit growth of 15 percent in the banking sector last year might look high in normal circumstances but it reflected in part a pickup in investment after the devastating floods in 2011, Bank of Thailand Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul told Reuters in an interview on Jan. 15.
Bangkok Bank reported last week a quarterly net profit of 8.3 billion baht, up 40 percent on the year, thanks to loan demand from small- and medium-sized enterprises and corporate portfolios.
Bangkok Bank said it expected good loan growth to continue in 2013, with loan demand benefiting from expanding private sector investment, supported by government infrastructure projects.
Fourth-ranked Kasikornbank reported last week a quarterly net profit of 7.7 billion baht, up 153 percent on year. ($1 = 29.73 baht) (Additional reporting by Manunphattr Dhanananphorn; Editing by Chris Gallagher)