Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., the nation’s third-largest lender by assets, posted a 1.1 percent increase in profit in the first quarter.

Net income for the three months through March 31 rose to 54.69 billion yuan ($8.4 billion) from 54.1 billion yuan a year earlier, the company said in a statement to Hong Kong’s stock exchange on Thursday. It was the third straight quarter of a profit gain of about 1 percent.

The lender reported a bad-loan provision ratio of 180 percent, compared with a regulatory minimum of 150 percent of existing nonperforming credit. Nonperforming loans rose by 8.8 billion yuan from the end of last year to 221.6 billion yuan.

China’s government has been considering loosening rules for the amount of money that lenders must set aside for bad loans, as lenders struggle to both ramp up provisions and maintain profits in a slowing economy. Bank of China Ltd. on Tuesday became the first to announce that it had breached the provision requirements and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. followed on Thursday.

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