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UPDATE: Westpac NZ delivers 13% annual profit boost, as lending improves and bad debts fall

Westpac New Zealand, the local unit of Australia's Westpac Banking Corp, reported a 13 percent rise in annual cash earnings to $864 million helped by a rise in lending and improving bad debts.

Westpac's core earnings rose 3 percent to $1,22 million in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, on a 2 percent lift in net operating income to $2.07 billion. Although impairment charges of $22 million for the second-half were up on the $4 million in the previous half, there was a 78 percent drop in the annual figure to $26 million compared to the previous year. That was a groupwide trend with Westpac group reporting a full-year decline in bad debts of 23 percent to A$197 million.

There was a 3 percent rise in Westpac NZ's second-half earnings on the back of strong growth in financial services and mortgage lending.

Total lending for the year was up 5 percent to $3 billion with mortgages increasing 6 percent to $2.1 billion, driven by good growth in mortgages with loan to value ratios of less than 80 percent. Business lending was also increased by $800 million or 4 percent, with agricultural lending particularly strong.

The New Zealand unit contributed 10.4 percent to the Australian-based Westpac group's record profit of A$7.6 billion. Westpac, Australia's second largest bank, announced a final fully franked dividend of 92 Australian cents per share, taking total dividends for the year to A$1.82, up 5 percent on the previous year.

Westpac's dual-listed shares were unchanged at $38.92 on the NZX, and last traded at A$34.78 on the ASX.

Westpac, the latest of the big four banks to deliver bumper profits, said its good result was driven by a strong performance in its flagship retail banking business.

Chief executive Gail Kelly said Westpac's Australian Financial Services division, which houses its core home lending and business lending arms, had a particularly strong year with profits growing at double digit rates within the division and customer numbers up 6 percent.

"We provided more than A$87 billion in new lending to Australian retail and business customers over the year, while growing in line or above system across all key markets in the second half," Kelly said .

She said customer numbers had grown at their fastest pace in four years while customer complaints were down with a 27 percent drop in complaints for AFS alone.

Last week ANZ Bank New Zealand, the country's biggest lender, reported a 17 percent rise in annual earnings and the Bank of New Zealand reported a 2.4 percent rise.