BANGKOK, April 18 (Reuters) - Kasikornbank Pcl, Thailand's fourth-largest lender, reported a better-than-expected 18 percent rise in first-quarter net profit on Friday due to growth in loans to large corporate customers and lower operating costs.
The bank posted a net profit of 11.9 billion baht ($369.85 million) in the January-March quarter, up from 10.1 billion a year earlier. It beat an average 11 billion baht forecast by 11 analysts polled by Reuters.
However, loan and net profit growth is likely to decelerate this year, given the weak economy and domestic political unrest, which has prompted banks to adopt stricter loan criteria to prevent a build-up of bad debt.
In line with several other banks, Kasikornbank has lowered its 2014 loan growth target to 7-8 percent from a previous target of 9-11 percent as it cut its GDP growth forecast for the year to 3 percent due to the impact of political unrest on the economy. ($1 = 32.1750 Thai Baht) (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)