* Annual net profit up 4.5 pct to record of 4.54 bln rgt
* Q4 profit 1.03 bln rgt vs consensus of 861 mln rgt
* Sees strong Singapore growth, Indonesia to recover momentum
* Malaysia overall loan growth to slow a little (Recasts with comments from CEO)
By Yantoultra Ngui
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 (Reuters) - CIMB Group Holdings Bhd , Malaysia’s second-largest bank, reported a fifth straight year of record profits and was upbeat about the year ahead on the back of booming economic growth in Southeast Asia.
CIMB, like its bigger rival Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) , has been expanding in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand in an effort to diversify.
“We think we will continue to grow strongly in Singapore, recover some momentum in Indonesia and grow steadily in Malaysia,” CIMB Chief Executive Nazir Razak told reporters.
Annual net profit for Southeast Asia’s fifth biggest lender rose 4.5 percent to 4.5 billion ringgit ($1.4 billion).
Fourth-quarter profit at 1.03 billion ringgit handily beat an average prediction of 861 million ringgit from three analysts in a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll, although it slipped 4.6 percent from the same period a year earlier to due to an uptick in loan loss provisions.
“We hope we have positioned the firm better for 2014. Our capital position is now strong, our earnings asset base in better and our operating foundations have been improved,” he added.
But the bank also said it had “dialed in for lower loan growth” in Malaysia this year as consumer demand is set to weaken on an expected interest rate hike later in the year and government measures to curb property speculation.
Growth in business financing in Malaysia is expected to soften the impact of weaker consumer demand for loans, with Nazir predicting overall loan growth in Malaysia to slow to 9-10 percent this year from 12.4 percent in 2013.
The bank also said it was better positioned in Indonesia in 2014 after the central bank raised interest rates last year to battle emerging market volatility and shore up the rupiah.
Analysts have said CIMB could face some headwinds in Indonesia as business decisions get put on hold ahead of nationwide elections this year.
CIMB controls CIMB-Niaga, Indonesia’s fourth-largest bank by assets and Indonesia is CIMB’s second-biggest earnings contributor after Malaysia.
Indonesia’s fast declining currency in 2013 was one of the main reasons CIMB tapped shareholders for $1.1 billion in early January through a new share issue to boost core capital.
In Thailand, where months of anti-government protests have begun to take their toll on the economy, Nazir said the bank would need to be very focused and agile to navigate the uncertain environment.
Maybank is scheduled to report earnings on Thursday. (Writing by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)