March 27, 2018 / 1:41 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Chinese lender CCB posts fastest Q4 profit growth since 2014

* Q4 net profit up 9 pct

* Results buoyed by improved margins (Recasts, adds milestone and details)

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, March 27 (Reuters) - China Construction Bank Corp (CCB), the country’s second-biggest lender by assets, registered its fastest fourth-quarter net profit growth in four years, it said on Tuesday, citing improved margins.

CCB’s 9 percent rise in net profit for the quarter chimed with the results of peers and underlines how conservative lending practices and increased recognition of bad loans is helping to revive the country’s larger commercial banks after years of margin declines brought on by interest rate cuts.

Net profit for the three months to Dec. 31 rose to 41.02 billion yuan ($6.53 billion), versus 37.63 billion yuan a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters calculations based on the company’s annual figures.

That beat the 39.64 billion yuan average estimate from 19 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters and was the fastest pace of growth for the quarter since 2014.

CCB’s net interest margin — the difference between interest paid and earned — rose to 2.21 percent by the end of December, from 2.16 percent at the end of September, lifting net interest income by more than 8 percent to 452.46 billion yuan.

The bank also said it benefited from the rapid growth of both corporate and personal lending.

Full-year net profit rose 4.7 percent to 242.264 billion yuan, versus 231.46 billion yuan in 2016.

CCB’s non-performing loan ratio eased to 1.49 percent at the end of 2017, from 1.5 percent at Sept. 30. ($1 = 6.2750 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Engen Tham in Shanghai and Shu Zhang in Beijing Editing by David Goodman)

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