ANZ Bank interim profit rises on restructure

ANZ moved its focus away from Asia, selling stakes in Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank and retail and wealth management arms in six Asian countries

ANZ Bank posted a six percent rise in interim net profit Tuesday on the back of restructuring its business to shift the emphasis away from Asia and onto its core assets.

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's result for the six months to March 31 came in at Aus$2.91 billion (US$2.2 billion), while cash profit, which strips out one-off and other items, spiked 23 percent to Aus$3.41 billion.

The numbers were slightly below expectations, with the lender holding its dividend payout steady at 80 cents.

"We saw significant financial benefits emerging from the strategic and tactical decisions we took in 2016 to simplify the business, improve productivity and increase capital efficiency," said chief executive Shayne Elliott.

The restructure has seen ANZ move its focus away from Asia, selling stakes in Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank and retail and wealth management arms in six Asian countries.

This has seen more emphasis on Australia and New Zealand as it strives to become "simpler, better capitalised and more balanced".

“The reshaping of our business over the past year has delivered strong outcomes for customers and shareholders, and has established a foundation for future growth and better returns," added Elliott.

The bank reported strong customer deposit growth (up seven percent), small business lending (up five percent), and home lending (up five percent).

But Elliott cautioned that "the environment for banking remains constrained with intense competition and pressure on margins, subdued lending growth, rapidly changing customer expectations and increasing regulation".

All of Australia's big banks are battling higher funding costs and lower interest margins, with rules now demanding they hold more reserves as a buffer against mortgages and fears over rising bad loans.

National Australia Bank reports its half-yearly results on Thursday with Westpac following suit next week.

The Commonwealth Bank -- Australia's biggest -- uses a different reporting schedule and posted a record interim cash profit -- the banking industry's preferred measure -- of Aus$4.91 billion in February.