* Net profit S$921 mln vs S$796 mln consensus forecast
* Says sees significant opportunities in Greater China
* OCBC shares down 3.3 pct 2014 on concerns about Wing Hang deal (adds detail from earnings, CEO’s statement)
By Saeed Azhar
SINGAPORE, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp , Singapore’s second-biggest lender, on Tuesday posted a 54 percent rise in quarterly profit, beating expectations thanks to brisk loan growth and a strong performance from its insurance unit.
OCBC, which last week boosted its China exposure by gaining over 90 percent control of Hong Kong-lender Wing Hang Ltd , said it expected to take advantage of growing investment and trade flows between Greater China and Southeast Asia.
The bank earned S$921 million ($739 million) in the three months ending in June, compared with S$597 million a year earlier. The profit was above the S$796 million average forecast of six analysts polled by Reuters.
OCBC shares have underperformed DBS Group Holdings and United Overseas Bank this year since it became known it intended to buy Wing Hang, a move which increased its exposure to China’s slowing economy. Investors were also concerned about a potential rights issue of about S$3 billion ($2.41 billion) to fund the transaction.
OCBC shares are 3.3 percent lower so far this year, compared with an almost 6 percent rise for larger rival DBS and 8.3 percent gain for UOB.
Singapore banks are witnessing a slowdown in the housing market in response to government cooling measures, forcing them to diversify earnings from areas such as trade finance and wealth management.
DBS last week reported a 9 percent rise in quarterly profit, beating expectations. UOB said quarterly profit grew 3.2 percent although its bad debt charges doubled.
OCBC’s quarterly net interest income - the gap between what a bank makes from loans and pays on deposits - rose 17 percent to S$1.1 billion, on the back of a 12 percent year-on-year rise in customer loans.
Contributions from insurance unit Great Eastern Holdings boosted non-interest income by 40 percent.
Bad debt charges fell just over 20 percent to S$66 million. UOB, in contrast, doubled its bad debt charges in the second quarter on losses on property and other loans. DBS saw a 48 percent decline in similar charges. (1 US dollar = 1.2452 Singapore dollar) (Reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Stephen Coates)