National Australia Bank posts 5% rise in profit

NAB Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption NAB has announced a 5.5bn Australian dollar ($4.4bn; £2.8bn) capital raising effort which will involve the selling of new shares

One of Australia's biggest lenders, National Australia Bank (NAB), has posted a 5.4% rise in cash profit year-on-year for the six months to March.

It has also announced a 5.5bn Australian dollar ($4.4bn; £2.8bn) capital-raising effort which will involve the selling of new shares.

NAB wants to demerge and float its troubled British bank, Clydesdale, and shore up its balance sheet.

The lender is one of the country's big four and the largest by assets.

NAB's preferred cash profit measure for the period, excluding some accounting items, met forecasts and came to $A3.32bn.

Its half-year net profit came in at $A3.44bn, up 20.4%.

The cash profit number strips out some one-off accounting items and is the bank's preferred measure of performance.

NAB's capital-raising announcement has been reported by some of Australia's media as being the largest in the country's corporate history.

The bank also announced Australia's former treasury secretary Ken Henry would take over as its chairman, replacing the long-serving Michael Chaney in December.

The lender's shares will be suspended from trade on the Australian stock exchange as its book-building activities commence.

Australia's banks

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption NAB's half-year profit for the six months ending in March came in line with expectations

NAB is the last of the country's big banks to report this week, together with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ and Westpac. Other results were mixed, with lenders missing and beating expectations.

The so-called big four are regarded as highly profitable, however, the latest results have concerned investors, with many analysts referring to a so-called new era that could see Australian banks fail to return any more record profits.

The big four lenders came out of the global financial crisis relatively unscathed, but are now facing tighter regulatory controls.

In a report published last year, Australian banks were told they needed to hold more capital to be able to survive future financial crises.

The Financial System Inquiry report singled out bank competition, increased capital levels and inefficient taxes for reform.

NAB's capital-raising effort is largely viewed as an attempt to get ahead of Australian regulators by further boosting its capital ratios.

"The chairman of APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) signalled that it would move sooner rather than later in requiring banks to hold more capital," said Shane Oliver, who is the head of investment strategy and chief economist with AMP Capital.

"But all the banks have had solid profit growth in recent years, partly helped by low rates and the housing recovery," Mr Oliver told the BBC.

"Clearly it can't be sustained at this rate going forward but I don't see a collapse in profits."

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