NAB First-Quarter Profit Rises on Improved Business Loan Margins

National Australia Bank Ltd., the worst performing stock among the country’s four major lenders in 2012, said first-quarter profit 3.6 climbed percent as it expanded business lending margins and cut bad debts.

Unaudited cash earnings, which exclude some one-time costs, rose to A$1.45 billion ($1.5 billion) for the three months ended Dec. 31, the Melbourne-based bank said in a statement today. That compares with A$1.4 billion cash profit reported a year earlier. Unaudited net profit was about A$1.26 billion, the bank said.

Chief Executive Officer Cameron Clyne is trying to revive earnings growth after provisions at the bank’s U.K. unit led to the first decline in annual profit since 2009 last fiscal year. While Australia’s fourth-biggest lender by market value is increasing its share of the home loan market, central bank figures show mortgage demand is the weakest in four decades.

“We see fewer near-term risks for NAB and the potential for positive responses to announcements on either asset sales or expense initiatives,” Citigroup Inc. analysts led by Craig Williams said in a note on Jan.31.

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