RETAIL BANKING | Tony Chua, China

AgBank eyes 45% surge in first half profit

Despite its lock-up period will begin expiring in July, none of the bank's key investors in its Hong Kong shares have hinted of selling their stake,

Agricultural Bank of China, the country's No. 3 lender, expects first-half net profit to rise by more than 45 percent, helped by a widening net interest margin and growth in fee income.

None of the bank's cornerstone investors in its Hong Kong shares have said they want to sell their stake, a member of AgBank's board of directors told Reuters.

Agbank's lock-up period will begin expiring in July, which has raised concern among investors that the market could be flooded with its shares if cornerstone investors including Singapore's Temasek and the Qatar Investment Authority choose to sell down their stake.

"Various businesses of the bank have been developing well and net interest margin has continued to increase," AgBank said in a statement to the Hong Kong exchange. "Both net interest income together with fee and commission income have experienced significant growth."

The bank made a net profit 45.8 billion yuan ($7 billion) in the first half of 2010, it said in the same statement.
China has hiked interest rates three times so far this year, helping banks' widen their net interest margin as the cost of borrowing rises.

View the full story in Reuters.

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