Chinese banking giants post 1Q profit

Chinese banking giants the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China reported an increase in their first quarter net profit on Friday, boosted by growth in interest income.

The ICBC, the country's biggest lender, said its net profit for the January-March period grew 14 percent from a year earlier to 61.34 billion yuan ($9.75 billion), in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

AgBank, the country's third-biggest lender by assets, meanwhile saw its first-quarter profit soar 28 percent to 43.45 billion yuan, although the growth pace was slower than the 36 percent increase it posted during the same period a year ago.

The banks are two of China's "Big Four" lenders, alongside China Construction Bank and the Bank of China.

China's major banks have reported strong profits despite the slowing economy, further fuelling resentment as companies struggle to access much-needed credit and helping prompt an explosion in underground lending.

Premier Wen Jiabao has called for the break-up of a banking "monopoly" on lending that has squeezed private businesses.

"In regards to financing costs, let me honestly say that our banks are making a profit too easily. Why is this so? It's because a few big banks are in a monopoly position," he said earlier this month.

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