China's top bank ICBC first-quarter profit rises 4 percent, less than forecast

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BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) 601398.SS1398.HK, the world's biggest lender by assets, said on Friday net profit grew 4 percent in the first quarter, below expectations.

Profit was 78.8 billion yuan ($12.42 billion) in the three months through March, compared with 75.8 billion yuan in the same period a year earlier, the bank said in a filing.

Analysts had expected a 5.8 percent rise in first-quarter net profit, according to three brokerage estimates compiled by Reuters.

ICBC’s non-performing loan ratio was 1.54 percent at end-March, down from 1.55 percent at the end of December.

Its NPLs topped 225 billion yuan at end-March, compared with 221 billion yuan at end-December.

The bank’s net interest margin (NIM) - the difference between interest paid and earned - was 2.30 percent at the end of March, compared with 2.22 percent in 2017.

($1 = 6.3435 Chinese yuan)

Reporting by Shu Zhang in Beijing and Engen Tham in Shanghai; Editing by Jacqueline Wong