March 31, 2017 / 9:28 AM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 2-Bank of China not optimistic about 2017 after profit drop

* BoC 2016 FY profit falls 3.67 pct

* NIM falls to 1.83 pct in Q4 from 1.85 pct in Q3

* NPL ratio falls to 1.46 pct end-Dec from 1.48 pct end-Sept (Adds comments)

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, March 31 (Reuters) - Bank of China Ltd (BoC) , the country’s fourth-largest lender by assets, reported a fall in full-year profit for the first time in more than a decade on Friday, the only one of China’s “Big Five” banks to do so.

The most international of China’s largest listed state-owned lenders, BoC follows the other four in posting its lowest interest margin since at least 2011, due to successive central bank interest rate cuts between 2014 and 2015.

For 2016, net profit fell 3.67 percent to 164.58 billion yuan ($24 billion) from 170.85 billion yuan a year earlier.

BoC President Chen Siqing told a briefing late on Friday that the bank was facing a declining interest rate environment, where it was “impossible” to receive high interest income, even as the lender is forced to pay more for its funding.

The compression in net interest margin - the difference between interest earned on loans and interest paid out to depositors - continued in the fourth quarter, falling to 1.83 percent from 1.85 percent at the end of September.

For just the fourth quarter, net profit fell about 24 percent to 29.8 billion yuan, missing analyst estimates of 32 billion yuan.

Chief Risk Officer Pan Yuehan said he was not very optimistic about the quality of assets this year.

The bank is now seeking to increase non-interest income, Chen said. BoC reported that net fee and commission income declined 6 percent in 2017.

BoC’s non-performing loan ratio was 1.46 percent as at the end of December, from 1.48 percent three months prior. ($1 = 6.8904 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Engen Tham in SHANGHAI and Matthew Miller in BEIJING; Editing by Christopher Cushing/Alexander Smith)

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