Australia's NAB Q1 rises as bad debts fall

SYDNEY Wed Feb 6, 2013 5:03pm EST

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SYDNEY Feb 7 (Reuters) - National Australia Bank, the country's top lender by assets, said its first-quarter cash earnings rose by about 4 percent, boosted by rising revenues and a fall in bad debts.

NAB, which has been hamstrung by the poor performance of its UK operations, posted an unaudited cash profit of A$1.45 billion ($1.50 billion) compared with A$1.4 billion a year ago.

"This is a pleasing result, especially given operating conditions remain challenging in both Australia and the UK, notwithstanding recent improvements in financial markets," Chief Executive Cameron Clyne said in a statement.

The bank said its charge for bad and doubtful debts, an area of concern for the industry in late 2012, had fallen about 10 percent to A$554 million. Revenues rose 3 percent, boosted by its wholesale banking division and bigger customer margins.

Its core tier-one capital ratio on a Basel II basis was 8.39 percent.

NAB shares closed at A$28.11 on Wednesday, just short of a near two-year high hit this week.

($1 = 0.9691 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by John Mair)

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