India's Axis Bank Q1 profit beats forecasts, bad loans tick up

July 18 Thu Jul 18, 2013 5:53am EDT

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July 18 (Reuters) - Indian private sector lender Axis Bank Ltd posted on Thursday a higher-than-expected 22.5 percent increase in quarterly net profit, helped by higher interest income, and a marginal increase in bad loans cheered investors.

Axis shares rose as much as 4.5 percent after the results, which included a lower-than-expected increase in non-performing loans to 0.35 percent of total assets from 0.31 percent in the same period last year.

The bank also increased its provisions against bad loans and contingencies in the quarter to 7.12 billion rupees from 2.6 billion rupees a year earlier.

Axis has significant exposure to trouble infrastructure projects as well as to midsize companies facing cash-flow problems. Exposure to the infrastructure and power sector was about 13 percent of its total loan book at the end of March, according to its annual report.

Net profit rose to 14.09 billion rupees ($236.7 million) in its fiscal first quarter from 11.5 billion rupees a year earlier. Net interest income grew 31 percent to 28.6 billion rupees.

Analysts had expected a net profit of 13.7 billion rupees, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Indian lenders have seen increasing pressure on asset quality over the last two years with bad debt nearly doubling to about 4 percent of total assets.

Axis competes with bigger local rivals State Bank of India , ICICI Bank Ltd and HDFC Bank Ltd. ($1 = 59.4900 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Swati Pandey in MUMBAI; editing by Miral Fahmy)