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ANZ Bank first-quarter cash earnings rise to A$2b

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Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd first-quarter cash earnings rose on a stronger performance from the lender's domestic businesses, while the outlook for bad debts has improved.

[SYDNEY] Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd first-quarter cash earnings rose on a stronger performance from the lender's domestic businesses, while the outlook for bad debts has improved.

Unaudited cash profit, which excludes one-time items, rose to A$2 billion (S$2.18 billion) in the three months ended Dec 31, the Melbourne-based lender said in a statement to the stock exchange Friday. That's up 8 per cent from the A$1.85 billion recorded a year earlier. Statutory net profit was unchanged at A$1.6 billion.

ANZ Bank shares rose 1.7 per cent to A$30.71 at 10:18am in Sydney.

"The first quarter saw a positive start to the year," CEO Shayne Elliott said in the statement. "There is still a great deal to do to sustain this progress in a low-growth environment." Since taking over in January 2016 Mr Elliott has focused on selling off legacy stakes in Asian retail businesses and focusing the bank on its domestic lending portfolio.

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The group's net interest margin, a key measure of lending profitability, fell "several" basis points on lower earnings on capital and higher funding costs, the bank said, without being more specific.

Bad-debt provisions fell to A$283 million from A$362 million a year earlier. While Mr Elliott cautioned it was too early to be certain, he said the outlook on provisions was "more positive" than the bank had expected.

ANZ's trading update completes the round of earnings releases from the country's big banks. Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd on Wednesday posted its eighth consecutive record first-half profit on the back of its domestic retail operations.

National Australia Bank Ltd's first-quarter earnings declined slightly as higher expenses cancelled out a small revenue increase. Westpac Banking Corp doesn't disclose quarterly earnings.

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