Korean banks may log better-than-expected earnings for this year: data

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korean banks may post better-than-expected earnings for this year on the back of smaller loan-loss reserves and an absence of the regulator's rule tightening on financial health, data showed Wednesday.

Top banking group Woori Finance Holdings and the other three rivals may post a combined 6 trillion won (US$5.68 billion) in earnings for 2013, down from 7.71 trillion won tallied for last year, according to an estimate made by financial data provider FnGuide.

Their net income amounted to 2.7 trillion won in the first half, according to market watchers. They added that in the second half, smaller loan-loss reserves and the regulator's attitude against banks' practice of keeping up financial health may lend support to local banks' bottom line.

Korean banks kicked off an earnings season for the third quarter on Friday when Hana Financial Group reported a 63 percent on-year rise in net income.

The earnings by the top four banking groups are estimated to reach 1.67 trillion won for the third quarter, up 41.7 percent from three months earlier, according to FnGuide.

"In the third quarter, the loan-loss reserves might have stabilized somewhat as local banks put aside more bad expenses related to troubled STX Group in the second quarter," said Koo Kyung-hwe, an analyst at Hyundai Securities Co.

Korean banks have been suffering from weak earnings as a long streak of low rates undercut their net interest margin, and as the economic slowdown and corporate overhaul raised loan-loss reserves.

Furthermore, the financial regulator said it is not likely to further strengthen the guidelines for local banks' financial conditions at year-end, which will help lenders' net income for the fourth quarter.

Usually, the financial regulator advises local banks to beef up their financial health by reducing bad debt or putting aside more reserves.

No. 2 financial services company KB Financial Group will unveil its third-quarter earnings on Friday, and its rival Shinhan Financial plans to announce the performance next Tuesday.

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