* Net profit 611.9 bln Y vs 607.3 bln avg estimate of analysts
* Raises dividend to 7.5 yen/shr from 7 yen forecast earlier
By Taiga Uranaka
TOKYO, May 15 (Reuters) - Mizuho Financial Group Inc reported on Friday a smaller than forecast 11 percent fall in annual profit, helped by a strong stock market and its overseas expansion.
The bank raised its annual dividend to 7.5 yen per share for the year ended in March, from 7 yen it had said previously, responding to investor demand for higher shareholder returns.
Japan’s second-largest lender by assets said net profit came in at 611.9 billion yen ($5.12 billion) for the year, down 11 percent from a year earlier and slightly above an average estimate of 607.3 billion yen in a poll of 18 analysts by Thomson Reuters. The bank had forecast a 20 percent fall in net profit.
Mizuho and rival Japanese banks got a boost from a domestic stock market rally fueled by additional stimulus by the Bank of Japan, designed to end the country’s deflationary trend.
The banks have been also helped by smaller bad-loan costs as borrowers’ risk profile improved amid a mild economic recovery.
For the current financial year through March, the bank said it expects net profit to rise 3 percent to 630 billion yen, above an average estimate of 585.5 billion yen in a poll of 18 analysts by Thomson Reuters.
Earlier this week, No. 3 lender Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc posted a smaller-than-forecast drop in annual profit on strong bond trading gains and lower bad-loan costs, and paid a more generous dividend, heeding calls for bigger shareholder returns. ($1 = 119.5000 yen) (Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)