(Refiles to fix conversion error in lead paragraph)
* Shares fall by most in about 4 months
* Q4 net profit 24.5 bln yuan vs 27.4 bln yuan f’cast
* Took $600 mln impairment charge (Recasts, adds details)
By Donny Kwok and Kelvin Soh
HONG KONG, March 28 (Reuters) - China Construction Bank Corp (CCB) , China’s largest mortgage lender, reported 2010 earnings that missed expectations and recorded a 4 billion yuan ($610 million) impairment charge, sending its shares down by the most in about four months.
CCB’s Hong Kong-listed shares fell by as much as 2.9 percent in morning trade on Monday after the bank said it took the impairment on securities and off-balance sheet items.
“There is uncertainty in the market if this is an issue with asset quality or if they are just making provisions for tighter rules,” said Patrick Pong, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities in Hong Kong.
Further weighing on the shares was China’s series of curbs on the booming real estate sector, although an improvement in interest margins due to a monetary tightening campaign by the central bank helped boost the lender’s results.
“The environment for comprehensive operations will loosen, providing excellent opportunities for nurturing new businesses,” CCB noted in a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange. “The accelerated liberalisation of interest rates and exchange rates will also give the group greater freedom for financial innovation.”
However, the expansion of its liability business is becoming more difficult amid tightening liquidity and the fluctuating capital market, CCB said.
The People’s Bank of China has raised interest rates three times and bank reserve requirements six times since October, most recently on March 18, to rein in inflation and mop up excess liquidity.
Rate rises typically boost the profitability of banks by improving their net interest margins.
CCB, in which the Bank of America Corp and Singapore’s Temasek hold stakes, recorded fourth quarter profit of 24.53 billion yuan, according to Reuters’ calculation based on full-year figures.
That was lower than a consensus forecast of 27.4 billion yuan but up from 20.68 billion yuan a year earlier.
CCB, which ranks behind Industrial and Commercial Bank of China , saw its full-year net profit grow to 135.03 billion yuan, in line with the 137.9 billion yuan mean forecast of 23 analysts from Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
In 2009, CCB posted a net profit of 106.8 billion yuan.
Net interest margin was at 2.49 percent for 2010, against 2.41 percent in 2009, due to a rise in interest rates. Its non-performing loan ratio was at 1.14 percent compared with 1.50 percent in the year-ago period.
Its core capital adequacy ratio was at 10.4 percent against 9.31 percent in 2009.
CCB’s Hong Kong shares rose 7.7 percent in 2010, outperforming the Hang Seng index’s 5.3 percent gain. ($1 = 6.557 yuan) ($1 = 6.557 Chinese Renminbis) (Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)