China’s five largest banks tripled their bad loan write-offs in the first quarter in light of a potential round of defaults, Bloomberg reported, citing bank filings. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (601398.SHA, 1398.HKG) and its four largest rivals expunged US$3.63 billion (RMB22.1 billion) of debt that couldn’t be collected in the first six months, up from US$1.25 billion a year earlier. First-half profits were unfazed, climbing to a record US$76 billion thanks largely to provisions previously set aside when loans were beginning to sour. Writing off bad debts may allow the banks to mitigate a surge in nonperforming-loan ratios amid rising defaults.
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