March 27, 2019 / 2:39 PM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-China Construction Bank posts first quarterly profit drop since 2015

* Profit at 40.55 bln yuan vs 43 bln yuan analyst view -Reuters calc

* NPL 1.46 pct at December-end vs 1.47 pct three months prior

* Net interest margin at 2.31 pct from 2.34 pct at September-end

* (Adds milestone, earnings details, bullet points)

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG, March 27 (Reuters) - China Construction Bank Corp (CCB) posted a 1 percent drop in fourth-quarter net profit on Wednesday, its first quarterly growth decline since 2015, as the lender beefed up provisions against rising bad loans amid narrowing interest margins.

China’s second-biggest lender by assets after Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) saw profit dip to 40.55 billion yuan ($6.03 billion) in the October to December period from 41.02 billion yuan a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters calculations based on the company’s annual figures.

That missed a 43.34 billion yuan average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Refinitiv SmartEstimate, weighted in favour of the more accurate analysts.

Full-year net profit rose 5.11 percent to 254.66 billion yuan.

CCB’s non-performing loan (NPL) ratio eased to 1.46 percent as at the end of the year from 1.47 percent at September-end, while its total amount of NPLs stood at 200.88 billion yuan.

To cushion against credit risks, CCB increased its provision coverage ratio to 208.37 percent, from 171.08 percent in 2017.

Its net interest margin, the difference between interest paid and earned by banks and a key measure of profitability, shrank to 2.31 percent, from 2.34 percent three months earlier.

As the economy brakes in the face of domestic and external pressures, with growth slowing to a 28-year low in 2018, China is pumping liquidity into the financial system to boost lending to the real economy, especially to credit-starved private companies and small businesses.

The central bank has cut banks’ reserve requirement ratios five times since January last year. Analysts expect another 150 basis points of cuts in the ratio by the end of this year.

The price of CCB’s Hong Kong-listed stock was up 0.88 percent before the earnings release, compared with a 0.56 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng index.

$1 = 6.7249 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Shu Zhang and Julie Zhu; Editing by Jan Harvey and David Evans

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