ICBC, BOC Profits May Signal Strength in China's Bank Industry

Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and Bank of China Ltd. may report profit growth of at least 15 percent tomorrow, helping bolster confidence in the country’s banks amid tighter government scrutiny of lending.

ICBC, the world’s largest bank by market value, may post a 29 percent increase in second-quarter income, according to the average estimate among 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Bank of China is expected to post profit growth of 15 percent for the period. Both lenders are based in Beijing.

Chinese bank shares have slipped this year as the industry regulator clamped down on loans to local-government financing vehicles and property speculators, and ordered them to move off- balance-sheet debts back onto their books. Construction Bank Corp. on Aug. 22 said those measures won’t have any meaningful impact on its earnings or finances.

“The market is trading banks down this year because of fears of local government loans, off-balance-sheet loans and property loans,” said Jim Antos, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd. Based on the outlook for banks’ earnings, “this is a tremendous story,” he said.

ICBC may post profit of 40.25 billion yuan ($5.9 billion) for the three months to June 30, based on subtracting first- quarter figures from analysts’ estimates for six-month earnings. Bank of China, the country’s third largest by assets, may have second-quarter net income of 26.1 billion yuan.

Stock, Bond Sales

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank by market capitalization, posted profit of $4.8 billion for the second quarter. Citigroup Inc. earned $2.7 billion.

Shares of ICBC have dropped 13 percent in Hong Kong this year, trimming its market value to $212 billion. Bank of China has slipped 4.8 percent, matching the decline in the benchmark Hang Seng Index and valuing the company at $129 billion.

ICBC, Bank of China and Construction Bank have announced plans to raise a combined $30 billion selling shares and bonds convertible into stock as global regulators push for stronger capital buffers to avert another financial crisis.

Construction Bank Chairman Guo Shuqing said this week China won’t have a subprime loan crisis similar to that of the U.S., because home mortgages account for a relatively small share of gross domestic product.

Credit Suisse Group AG analysts Sanjay Jain and Anand Swaminathan said Aug. 20 they prefer Chinese banks over other financial companies in Asia because of “compelling” valuations and as they “expect some resolutions to the various risks that have plagued the stocks for some time.” They recommended investors add ICBC and Construction Bank shares.

ICBC, Construction Bank and Bank of China trade at an average 1.9 times estimated end-2010 book value and about 10 times expected full-year earnings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Hang Seng trades at 13.4 times forecast earnings.

“A low P/E reflects the market’s lack of conviction in future earnings growth,” JPMorgan analysts led by Samuel Chen wrote in a note this month. They predicted earnings growth of at least 20 percent over the next two years on expansion in assets, wider loan margins and “solid fee income growth.”

--Luo Jun. Editors: Philip Lagerkranser, Russell Ward

To contact Bloomberg News staff of this story: Luo Jun in Shanghai at +8621-6104-7021 or jluo6@bloomberg.net

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