UPDATE 1-Australia lender CBA's FY14 cash profit climbs to record

Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:48pm EDT

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(Adds more details on earnings, share price)

SYDNEY Aug 13 (Reuters) - Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), the country's top lender by market value, said its full-year cash profit grew about 12 percent to a record high, matching expectations, on strong growth in loans and lower bad debt provisions.

CBA said cash profit, a key measure of its earnings, rose to A$8.68 billion ($7.99 billion) in the year to June 30, compared with a consensus forecast of A$8.62 billion - from 10 analysts polled by Reuters. The profit was up from A$7.76 billion a year ago.

The bank was "cautiously positive" about the outlook for 2015 financial year with business and consumer confidence remaining fragile, chief executive Ian Narev said in a statement.

CBA's results mark its sixth straight year of record annual profits, with Australia's banking sector benefiting as low interest rates encourage consumers to take out housing and other loans. Mortgage and consumer loans generate 35 percent to 40 percent of earnings in the Australian banking industry.

It declared a final dividend of A$2.18 per share, taking its full-year dividend payout to A$4.01 a share, a 10 percent rise.

Net interest margin - a core measure of profitability - rose 1 basis point to 2.14 percent during the year. The ratio of cash loan impairment expense to gross loans improved 4 basis points due to lower provisions, the bank added.

The country's biggest mortgage lender has drawn strength from a steady growth in plain vanilla retail deposits. Home lending at CBA grew faster than in the rest of the industry at 6.7 percent, it said.

Shares in CBA, valued by the market at about $123 billion, are trading near record highs. They are up 5 percent for the year to date, compared with a 3.3 percent rise in the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index.

The stock, trading at nearly 3 times their book value, is the most expensive among Australian banks. Its forward price-to-earnings ratio of 14.6 times is also the highest among its peers in the country, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine.

CBA has a different financial year from Australia's other big three banks. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd , Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank Ltd are all due to report third-quarter earnings later this month. ($1 = 1.0794 Australian dollar) (Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by G Crosse, Edwina Gibbs and Kenneth Maxwell)

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