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Australia's Commonwealth Bank annual profit soars 13%

SYDNEY--Australia's biggest bank, the Commonwealth (CBA), on Wednesday posted a bumper 13 percent jump in full-year net profit to a record AU$8.63 billion (US$8 billion) with gains across each of its core divisions.

The country's top home lender and biggest company by market capitalization said net profit for the 12 months ending June 30 was up from AU$7.68 billion the year before, slightly above analyst expectations.

Cash profit — the bank's preferred measure which strips out one-off costs — was AU$8.68 billion, up 12 percent, underlying a buoyant financial position.

A final dividend of AU$2.18 was declared, an increase of nine percent.

“This year we have again struck a balance between the group's short-term and long-term priorities,” said chief executive Ian Narev.

“At the same time as delivering a 12 percent increase in cash earnings, and a strong return on equity, we reinvested AU$1.2 billion into the business.”

He said most of this was targeted at the 102-year-old bank's long-term strategic priorities — “people, technology, strength and productivity.”

Narev added that the bank was “cautiously positive” about the outlook for the 2015 financial year.

“Whilst business and consumer confidence levels have remained fragile, the levels of underlying activity confirm the strong foundations of the Australian economy,” he said.

“Lower interest rates have been positive for the housing and construction sectors, where increased activity has gone some way to offset the impacts of the anticipated reduction in investment in the resources sector.”

Analysts said investors were likely to be pleased with the result.

“Investors are likely to be pleased by news of CBA's AU$2.18 dividend. It's encouraging that CBA is comfortable in maintaining its payout ratio at 75 percent,” said CMC Markets' chief analyst Ric Spooner

“This indicates it is relatively comfortable about meeting future capital requirements.

“The strength of the bank's credit position is also reflected in the fact that it has achieved a net interest margin of 2.14 percent. This indicates favorable funding rates from offshore markets allowing its interest margin to withstand competitive pressure on domestic mortgage rates.”

Earnings from its retail banking division — the largest in the bank — jumped 12 percent to AU$3.47 billion, helped by its dominant position in the domestic mortgage market, and they were up four percent from its private banking business to AU$1.53 billion.

The bank's wealth management division lifted earnings 17 percent to AU$793 million, and its institutional banking and markets division recorded a five percent increase to AU$1.26 billion.

Customer deposits were up AU$34 billion to AU$439 billion, and now represent 64 percent of the group's total funding.

Australia's other big banks — ANZ, Westpac and National Australia Bank — do not report their annual results until late October or early November.

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