TOKYO, May 17 (Reuters) - Japan's top lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc (MUFG) (8306.T) posted on Monday a better than expected 47% jump in annual profit and forecast its credit costs will fall this year on expectations of a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
MUFG's credit costs prediction follows those of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc (8316.T) and Mizuho Financial Group Inc (8411.T) which last week forecast a similar drop in credit-related costs this year, believing the economy will recover as vaccination proceeds. read more
MUFG, which owns about 20% of Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley (MS.N), reported a 777 billion yen ($7.11 billion) net profit in the last financial year ended in March.
While Japanese banks have seen an increase in lending since last year as companies rushed to borrow due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a prolonged low-rate environment and a shrinking population have weighed on profits.
MUFG, like other major lenders, has sought growth outside Japan. Last year the bank said it would invest $706 million in Southeast Asia's biggest ride-hailing firm Grab.
As part of its three-year business plan, MUFG said on Monday it is targeting an annual net profit of more than 1 trillion yen by the year ending March 2024, and will put more focus on its Asian business.
Its shares have risen 34.3% year to date, the most among Japan's megabanks, and compared to the benchmark Nikkei index's (.N225) 1.4% gain.
"Although it's true Asian markets will be our main profit source, the COVID-19 impact is also expected to remain in the region," Chief Executive Hironori Kamezawa told an earnings briefing.
The profit may decline once but will increase later, he said.
In the current business year ending in March 2022, the lender expects 850 billion yen in net income compared to the 733 billion yen estimate of eight analysts. It predicts 350 billion yen of credit-related costs, compared to 516 billion yen last year.
MUFG also said it would aim for net zero emissions in its finance portfolio by 2050 and in its own operations by 2030, amid a push by governments to deal with climate change. read more
($1 = 109.2200 yen)
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