March 28, 2019 / 10:05 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-China's top bank ICBC posts flat quarterly profit as economy slows

* ICBC Q4 net profit flat from a year earlier

* Net interest margin at 2.30 pct end-Dec, unchanged from end-Sept

* Non-performing loan ratio 1.52 pct end-Dec vs 1.53 pct end-Sept (Adds details, share price)

By Shu Zhang and Kane Wu

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG, March 28 (Reuters) - Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) said its net profit for the three months to December remained flat from a year ago, the first time it has seen no growth for any quarter since 2016, amid a slowing economy.

The country’s biggest commercial bank posted a net profit of 58.05 billion yuan ($8.63 billion) for the fourth quarter, about the same as a year ago. Analysts were expecting 58.17 billion yuan, according to Refinitiv SmartEstimate.

SmartEstimate gives more weight to recent estimates by analysts who are more consistently accurate.

The weak performance by China’s top state bank shows how a slowing economy and tougher regulations to curb financial risks are weighing on results at the country’s larger banks.

China Construction Bank Corp, the country’s second-largest bank, on Wednesday posted a 1 percent drop in fourth-quarter net profit, its first quarterly growth decline since 2015, as the lender beefed up provisions against rising bad loans amid narrowing interest margins.

Net interest margin for state-controlled ICBC, one of the world’s biggest banks by market capitalisation and assets, was at 2.30 percent at end-December, steady from three months ago.

Its non-performing loan (NPL) ratio dropped slightly to 1.52 percent at end-2018, from 1.53 percent at end-September.

The total amount of NPLs rose to 235.08 billion yuan, from 234 billion yuan at end-September.

The lender’s net profit for the full year rose 4 percent to 297.676 billion yuan.

ICBC’s mainland shares fell 1.1 percent on Thursday ahead of the results announcement. They have gained about 3 percent in 2019, compared with an around 25 percent rise of the blue-chip CSI300 index, giving the bank a market value of 1.92 trillion yuan, Refinitiv data showed. ($1 = 6.7268 Chinese yuan) (Reporting By Shu Zhang in Singapore and Kane Wu in Hong Kong; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Himani Sarkar)

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