UPDATE 5-Singapore DBS Q3 profit beats view, sees steady earnings next year

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Q3 net profit S$2.63 bln vs S$2.5 bln estimate

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2024 net profit to be maintained around record 2023 level - CEO

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DBS took allowances for exposures to suspected money laundering case

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Net interest margin at 2.19% in Q3 versus 1.90% a year ago

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Sets dividend of 48 Singapore cents a share for Q3

(Adds CEO's comment from briefing in paragraph 5, analyst comment in paragraph 11)

By Yantoultra Ngui

SINGAPORE, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Singapore's biggest bank DBS Group reported on Monday a better than expected 18% jump in third-quarter net profit on the back of higher interest rates, which it forecast will also help keep its profit steady next year.

DBS, which is also Southeast Asia's largest lender, has already forecast a record full-year profit for the current year.

"Net profit (for 2024) to be maintained around record 2023 level," CEO Piyush Gupta said in a briefing after the earnings result.

"As we enter the coming year, higher-for-longer interest rates will be a net benefit to earnings, while our solid balance sheet with ample liquidity, prudent general allowance reserves and healthy capital ratios will provide us with strong buffers against macro uncertainties," Gupta said.

Gupta sees a "bottom" in China's economic slowdown and its massive property market following government measures put in place since mid-year. DBS also has no direct exposure to the conflict in the Middle East, he added.

The bank's July-September net profit rose to S$2.63 billion ($1.94 billion) from S$2.24 billion a year earlier as total income grew to a record on higher interest margins and fee income.

That beat the mean estimate of S$2.5 billion from four analysts surveyed by LSEG.

Nevertheless, specific allowances of S$197 million were higher than recent quarters as the bank set aside contingencies for exposure linked to a suspected money laundering case in Singapore, one of the country's largest ever. The scandal has led to banks sharpening their scrutiny.

Gupta also expected the bank's 2024 net interest income to be around this year's level, and fee income momentum to be sustained by wealth management and cards.

He also forecast next year's profit before allowances to be higher, and total allowances to normalise to 17-20 basis points of loans, according to the statement.

"DBS seems to provide some reassurances that it sees the higher-for-longer interest rates as a net benefit to its earnings into 2024," said Yeap Jun Rong, IG Asia's market analyst. "This provides some much-needed comfort, at a time where loan demand continues to soften."

Besides higher global interest rates, Singapore banks have benefited from strong inflows of wealth drawn in by the city-state's political stability.

But global economic uncertainty could weigh on Singapore's economic prospects. The country's central bank kept monetary policy settings unchanged in April and October.

Smaller peer United Overseas Bank last month reported a weaker-than-expected 1% drop in third-quarter net profit.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp is due to announce its quarterly results on Nov. 10.

DBS was barred last week by the country's central bank from acquiring new businesses or making non-essential IT changes for a six-month period to ensure it focuses on shoring up its digital banking services, after they suffered several disruptions this year.

Gupta said DBS would execute a "comprehensive set of measures" to address the digital disruptions. ($1 = 1.3541 Singapore dollars) (Reporting by Yantoultra Ngui; Editing by Josie Kao, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Lincoln Feast.)