SYDNEY May 9 National Australia Bank,
the country's largest bank by assets, reported a 3.1 percent
rise in first-half profit on Thursday, as higher earnings in its
Australian personal and wholesale banking units were constrained
by losses in its UK business.
NAB, which announced restructuring plans to cut costs in
March, posted a cash profit of A$2.92 billion in the six months
to March 2013, compared with A$2.83 billion a year ago.
The result was just ahead of average analyst estimates of
A$2.87 billion profit according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.
The bank said it expected demand for credit in Australia,
its major market, to remain "relatively soft" in the coming
year, despite historically low interest rates.
The bank said it would pay a A$0.93 dividend, compared with
A$0.90 a year ago.
NAB's profits have lagged its "Big Four" peers -- Australia
and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, Commonwealth Bank of
Australia and Westpac Banking Corp -- as it
remains hamstrung by its poorly performing UK operations.
Net interest margin, a measure of profitability, dropped
three basis points from the September quarter to 2.03 percent,
while Tier I capital, a measure of a bank's ability to absorb
unforseen losses, increased 32 basis points over the same period
to 8.22 percent.
The bank's first-half charge for bad and doubtful debts was
broadly in line with a year ago.