UPDATE 1-Equity Bank's 9-month profit growth stumbles on costs
(Adds costs, background)
NAIROBI Nov 4 (Reuters) - Kenya's Equity Bank Group said on Monday its pretax profit for the first nine months of the year rose 7 percent, with growth curbed by a jump in operating expenses.
Equity, which focuses on the lower-income part of the market and also operates in Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Rwanda, posted a pretax profit of 12.6 billion shillings ($147.5 million) for the period.
It blamed a 19 percent jump in its total operating expenses to 17.6 billion shillings, which outstripped its total interest income growth rate of 4 percent to 23.6 billion shillings, for slowing growth in pretax profit.
The jump in costs was driven by the establishment of agency outlets, hiring of extra staff and increased provision for bad debts.
The lender, which is the largest in east Africa by number of accounts, has been posting double-digit profit growth in recent years. Its chief executive James Mwangi told Reuters in May he expected this year's profit to soar by up to 30 percent.
Equity's shares fell 2 percent to 35 shillings each at the start of trading on the Nairobi bourse.
($1 = 85.4500 Kenyan shillings) (Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by George Obulutsa and Mark Potter)
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