UPDATE 1-ANZ annual cash profit up 11 pct to record, meets forecast
* Annual cash profit of A$6.5 bln vs consensus of A$6.4 bln
* Expanding further in Asia to diversify revenues
* Shares up 41 pct this year vs 18 pct climb for wider market
By Jackie Range
SYDNEY, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd booked an 11 percent climb in full-year cash earnings on Tuesday, marking its fourth straight year of record profits as it benefited from revenue growth, cost cutting and a drop in bad loans.
ANZ, the country's third biggest bank by market value, posted a profit of A$6.5 billion ($6.22 billion), edging head of an average analyst projection of A$6.4 billion, on a 4 percent rise in operating income.
Cash earnings exclude one-off and non-cash items and are a measure of profitability closely watched by investors.
ANZ has stood apart from rival domestic banks with a more aggressive push into Asia to help diversify its revenue base, and has shown an interest in Hong Kong family run Wing Hang Bank Ltd, sources have said.
With its "super-regional" strategy, ANZ is seeking to position itself as a pan-Asian player like HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc, aiming to bring in between 25 and 30 percent of earnings from Asia-Pacific, Europe and America by 2017.
Chief Executive Michael Smith said the record profit, underpinned in part by a 15 percent rise in the bank's international and institutional banking division, showed the strategy was working.
"Our 2013 results demonstrate that our super regional strategy is not just about the promise of future growth and returns," Smith said in a statement.
The bank also benefited from lower bad debt charges and cost cutting, with gross impaired assets falling by 18 per cent. Provisions for bad and doubtful debts dropped 5 percent to A$1.19 billion.
Group net interest margin, traditionally a measure of core bank profits, fell 8 basis points. Analysts were anticipating a decline because ANZ's expansion into Asia is changing its business mix to focus more on trade finance for its customers, which has lower margins than traditional term lending.
ANZ's shares have risen 41 percent so far this calendar year, outperforming an 18 percent gain in the S&P ASX 200 benchmark index.
ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank Ltd and Westpac Banking Corp are on track to report an 8.5 percent rise in combined full-year cash earnings to A$27.1 billion, their fifth straight year of record profits.
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