Friday, August 7, 2009

INTERVIEW-Thai Kasikornbank expects recovery, keeps loan target

Published: 06 Aug 2009 21:22:45 PST

BANGKOK, Aug 7 - Kasikornbank , Thailand's fourth-largest lender, expects the economy to start recovering in the second half, if not quickly, and is therefore hopeful that it can meet its loan growthtarget of 4-5 percent this year.

Its overall lending shrank 2.47 percent in the first six months, and the bank has been treading carefully because of the economic recession, so profit is unlikely to be outstanding this year, President Prasarn Trairatvorakul told Reuters.

"The economy will pick up in the second half, but the recovery might not come that fast. A sustainable recovery, that should be from the middle of next year," Prasarn said in an interview.

"Because we see investment and confidence reviving, we've decided to stick to our loan growth target of 4-5 percent this year," said the 57-year-old, who has a business Ph.D. from Harvard.

"The improvement in sentiment is likely to continue next year and our lending growth should be better than this year."

Kasikornbank, a top pick of foreign investors, is expected to make a 2009 net profit of 14.18 billion baht ($417 million), down 7.5 percent from last year, according to six analysts surveyed by Reuters.

"I hope there is no surprise, no excitement in our net bottom line, as we are quite cautious. Our profits should mirror the state of the economy," Prasarn said, without giving a forecast.

The bank is aiming for a net interest margin of 3.8-3.9 percent this year, similar to last year's 3.98 percent, helped by the maturity of some fixed-term deposit accounts with relatively high interest rates early this year, he added.

Because of reviving loan demand, Prasarn said Kasikornbank expected commercial bank interest rates in Thailand to edge up later this year, even before the central bank increases its benchmark rate, which is widely expected to stay at 1.25 percent until the middle of 2010.

The bank's consolidated non-performing loans are expected to be held below 4 percent of total lending at the end of this year, compared with 3.74 percent at the end of June, helped by stricter lending policy and debt restructuring. ($1=33.97 Baht)

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