Chinese banks post slower profit growth

HONG KONG (AP) — Two of China's biggest state-owned banks reported slower profit growth for last year amid an economic downturn and interest rate reforms.

Bank of China said Tuesday that profit grew 12 percent to 139.4 billion yuan ($22.4 billion). Agricultural Bank of China said income rose 19 percent to 145 billion yuan.

Profit growth slowed as the world's second-largest economy underwent a painful slowdown in 2012.

Growth has also been hurt by the government's easing of interest rate controls. Chinese banks have in the past benefited from a margin between lending and deposit rates of more than 3 percent, among the world's largest.

Bank of China said net interest income rose 13 percent while at Agricultural Bank of China it rose about 10 percent.

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