Australia's ANZ first-half profits jump 38 pct

ANZ bank on Tuesday said its first half profits soared 38 per cent to a record Aus$2.66 billion ($2.90 billion), but warned that lending growth would slow.

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's net profit rose for the six months to March 31 from Aus$1.92 billion a year earlier.

Its underlying profit, a measure often preferred by financial institutions, showed a more modest 23 per cent rise to Aus$2.82 billion.

Australia's third largest bank by market value said the big increase in profit was driven by falling provisions for bad debts and increased earnings in its institutional bank, which lends to big corporates such as miners.

Chief executive Mike Smith said the country's booming resources sector would continue to generate demand for credit from mining and energy companies, and characterised the interim result as "solid".

But he warned that while the Australian housing market was not in a bubble, housing affordability was a concern, and said more interest rate rises threatened to "stall the economy".

"I think lending growth is going to be much slower," he told reporters.

"I think we'll be seeing some corporate demand... the resources sector is going like a train."

Asked when lending growth will bounce back, Smith said: "I don't think lending growth will recover to the pre-crisis levels. I think we are in a new world in that respect."

Australia's central bank on Tuesday left interest rates on hold at 4.75 per cent, as widely expected, but warned of possible rising inflation over the longer term as the economy improves.

Melbourne-based ANZ declared an interim dividend of 64 cents a share, up from 52 cents a year earlier -- broadly in line with analysts' expectations.

The market, though, was not impressed, with ANZ shares finishing down 50 cents, or 2.06 per cent, at Aus$23.80.

Earnings in the institutional bank rose 33 per cent to Aus$671 million while in retail banking they grew three per cent to Aus$709 million.

Commercial bank earnings grew by two percent to Aus$434 million.

Source AFP