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Australia's CommBank sees profits shrink

[SYDNEY] Australia's largest financial firm Commonwealth Bank on Wednesday said profits fell six percent in the last six months of 2018 amid a "challenging environment" for the business.

In the first earnings report since a high-profile inquiry into Australia's vastly profitable banking sector, the Sydney-based firm said it made almost A$4.6 billion (S$4.5 billion) in net profit in the July to December 2018 period - the first half of the 2019 financial year.

That was down six per cent versus the same period in the previous year.

Revenues slowed, crimped by a slowdown in the housing market and increased competition.

Storms in New South Wales and Victoria cost the bank an estimated A$61 million.

The earnings numbers, which fell below most market estimates, come just days after a Royal Commission pilloried the banking sector of ripping off its customers.

Chief executive officer Matt Comyn said it would take a while to work through all the recommendations from the inquiry, but he vowed to take a constructive approach.

"We are already making the necessary changes and will be a better bank as a result," he said.

Commonwealth Bank has around 16 million customers and employs 48,000 staff.