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Big 5 Chinese banks get profit boost in 2012 | Updated: 2013-03-29 10:28

While banks in Cyprus are tightening the limits on cash withdrawals to avoid a bank run as they reopen on Thursday, cash-rich Chinese banks on the other hand have released enviable bottom line reports. China's big five banks have all reached double-digit growth rates in 2012, with arguably benign bad loan ratios. Laura Luo breaks down the numbers.

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When it comes to the net profit of Chinese banks, let the numbers do the talking.

Although all top five banks have seen their growth rates slowing from 2011, they have mostly exceeded expectations.

Agricultural Bank of China saw the fastest growth rate. The bank however also scored the highest bad-loan ratio, but it was down from previous levels. Bank of China, in the meantime, was heavily questioned about its rising non-performing loans, which was triggered by the recent bankruptcy case of solar panel company Suntech.

Li Lihui, president of Bank of China, said, "Our bad loans in 2012 increased slightly by 3.2 billion yuan, but the ratio has lowered 5 basis points (0.05 percentage points) our NPL provision coverage has reached 236 percent, increasing over 10 percent from last year. We are very prudent on this matter."

ICBC keeps its thorn as the biggest earner of 2012 among Chinese banks, but its gigantic size could also mean headwinds.

Laura luo, beijing, said, "I'm standing in front of the headquarter of ICBC, the world's largest bank by assets, by market value, as well as by deposits. But the bank says this title is too big to carry on now, and it is working to slow down the asset expansions."

Yang Kaisheng, president of ICBC, said, "We do not think being number one in size is something we'd like to celebrate. This means China's economy relies too much on indirect financing. It is actually not a very healthy operation. This also puts high pressure on internal risk management. So it is necessary to find a way to grow sustainably, without unlimitedly expanding assets."

Despite the calming numbers, all banks' stocks opened with a nosedive on CBRC's stricter rules on personal financing, as the news came out overnight.

Chen Jiahe, Equity Analyst, Cinda Securities, said, "It is not important whether bank profits are 15 percent or 20 percent, we should be concerned about how much earnings they make. Banks are operating at 10 times leverage in China. That means if the economy goes downward, they can lose money very quickly."

China Merchants Bank and Minsheng Bank are expected to release their annual reports on Friday and Saturday.

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