May 28, 2018 / 6:08 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Malaysia's Maybank posts highest-ever Q1 profit on lower expenses

* Net profit up 10 pct to 1.9 billion ringgit, best ever for Q1

* Q1 revenue up 2 percent to 11.5 billion ringgit

* Income growth outstrips expenses, impairment losses down

* NIM down to 2.39 percent from 2.43 percent a year ago (Updates with earnings details, executive quotes)

KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 (Reuters) - Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank), Malaysia’s largest lender, posted its highest ever first-quarter profit, helped by a drop in expenses and continued decline in impairment losses.

Maybank’s net profit for the quarter was 1.9 billion ringgit ($477.39 million), up 10 percent from 1.7 billion ringgit a year ago. It beat an average estimate of 1.85 billion ringgit from two analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue was 2 percent higher at 11.5 billion ringgit.

The results were supported by a better cost-to-income ratio of 47.6 percent, versus 50.1 percent a year ago, as fee-based and fund-based income growth outpaced rise in overhead expenses, the bank said in a statement on Monday.

Net impairment losses for the quarter ended March fell 7.7 percent, while gross impaired loans ratio improved to 2.37 percent from 2.40 percent, it added.

Maybank’s Malaysian operations recorded a strong 6.7 percent increase in loans, while its Singapore and Indonesia operations saw increases of 5.5 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.

On the group level, loans expanded 1.5 percent year-on-year.

Maybank Chairwoman Mohaiyani Shamsudin said the bank was buoyed by the positive outlook in the region and Malaysia, despite some uncertainties in the operating environment.

“In particular, we await policies which are expected to be outlined by the new government in Malaysia which we hope will further drive private sector investments and enhance consumer confidence,” she said.

The country’s lenders are seeing increased domestic loan demand from sectors including manufacturing, finance and infrastructure, analysts said.

Malaysian banks with presence in the neighbouring Southeast Asia countries expect stronger demand for corporate and consumer loans as economies improve, which is likely to support credit growth in 2018.

But slower economic growth is a concern and uncertainty over economic policy has increased after 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad led an opposition alliance to a surprise election win this month. Malaysia’s first-quarter GDP grew 5.4 percent from a year earlier, its second straight quarter of slower economic growth.

Maybank’s net interest margin (NIM) - the difference between interest paid and earned and a key gauge of bank profitability - shrank slightly to 2.39 percent in the first quarter from 2.43 percent a year ago. ($1 = 3.9800 ringgit) (Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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