* Q1 net profit 39.8 bln yuan vs 39.5 bln yuan view
* Non-performing loan ratio at end-March 0.91 pct vs 0.95 pct at end-2012
* Net interest margin at 2.22 pct vs 2.15 pct at end-2012
* Shares up 1 pct year-to-date, beating big board
HONG KONG, April 25 (Reuters) - Bank of China , the country’s No.4 lender, reported earnings in line with expectations on Thursday, as income from fees and commissions helped to offset weaker loan growth in a slowing economy.
The bank said it made a net profit of 39.8 billion yuan ($6.44 billion) in January-March, in line with expectations for 39.5 billion yuan, according to a Reuters survey of six analysts. The net result was up 8 percent from its 36.8 billion yuan profit in the same period last year.
China’s banks have seen their earnings growth slow in the past year, hit by two central bank rate cuts, a decelerating economy and tighter regulations.
The bank said its non-performing loan ratio was 0.91 percent, down from 0.95 percent at the end of last year. Its net interest margin widened to 2.22 percent from 2.15 percent a year ago.
Bank of China’s Hong Kong-listed shares are up about 1 percent so far this year, better than the benchmark Hang Seng Index’s 1 percent decline.
Valuations on Chinese banks are now near historical lows, with widespread worries that a cooling Chinese economy could lead to a spike in bad loans, largely stemming from a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package in 2009 and over-investment in the frothy real estate and infrastructure sectors.
Bank of China dismissed those concerns, saying it had adequate liquidity to tide it through any rise in problem loans, with its capital adequacy ratio at end-March clocking in at 13.23 percent, down from 13.63 percent at the end of 2012.
“Guided by a sound corporate governance mechanism, the bank is transparent in its financials,” it said in a statement to the Hong Kong bourse. “The bank has healthy liquidity and no historical record of default.” ($1 = 6.1781 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Kelvin Soh; Editing by Edmund Klamann)