SYDNEY, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Westpac Banking Corp, Australia’s third-largest lender by assets, reported a 9 percent rise in second-half cash profit, beating expectations on tight costs and said it had improved its balance sheet even as bad debts rose.
Westpac, Australia’s second-largest mortgage lender, said second-half net profit came in at A$3.4 billion ($3.5 billion)compared with A$3.1 billion a year ago and A$3.24 billion expected by analysts. That took its full-year cash earnings to A$6.6 billion, marking the third consecutive year of record profit.
Australia’s top four banks, which posted a combined record annual net profit of about $25 billion in 2011/12, are facing their slowest profit growth in three years and bad debt provisions are seen rising hurt by a cooling economy. ($1 = 0.9645 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by Richard Pullin and John Mair)