National Australia Bank 1st-half profit up 8.5 pct

SYDNEY Wed May 7, 2014 6:20pm EDT

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SYDNEY May 8 (Reuters) - National Australia Bank Ltd , the country's top lender by assets, added to bumper bank earnings on Thursday with a 8.5 percent rise in cash earnings as bad debt charges dropped.

NAB said cash profit - which excludes one-offs, non-cash accounting items, investment gains or losses and is closely watched by investors - rose to $3.15 for the six months to March 31. That compares with analysts expectations of A$3.2 billion and A$2.9 billion a year ago.

Bad debt charges fell 52 percent from a year ago quarter to $528 million, it said.

This is the final set of results for CEO Cameron Clyne, who is passing the baton to Andrew Thorburn in August. (Reporting by Swati Pandey)