(Adds data on lending to companies, details)
MILAN, March 10 (Reuters) - Non-performing loans at Italian banks rose by 24.5 percent in January on a year ago, a slightly lower rate than the 24.7 percent rise recorded in December, Bank of Italy data showed on Monday.
Non-performing loans on banks' balance sheets totalled 160.4 billion euros ($222 billion) in January, up from 155.9 billion euros the previous month and banks cut back further on lending to companies as they tried to keep a lid on their bad debts.
Italy's central bank said loans to non-financial companies fell 5 percent year-on-year in January, a slight slowing in the pace of contraction from 5.2 percent in December.
Overall lending to the private sector shrank 3.5 percent in January after a 3.7 percent fall in December.
Holdings of Italian government bonds at Italy-based banks stood at 383.4 billion euros in January, down from 387.4 billion euros the previous month, according to data that is partly calculated at market value. ($1 = 0.7214 euros) (Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Isla Binnie, Greg Mahlich)