Australia's Westpac results 'big miss' from expectations

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Image caption Analysts said Westpac's half yearly results were poor and a "big miss"

One of Australia's biggest lenders, Westpac, has missed expectations and posted a cash profit of 3.78bn Australian dollars ($2.98bn; £1.96bn) for the six months to March.

The cash profit result, which is the bank's preferred performance measure, is unchanged from a year earlier.

The lender's net profit for the period was A$3.61bn, also unchanged from a year earlier.

Analysts said the results were poor and a "big miss".

Westpac is Australia's second-biggest lender by market value.

Chief executive Brian Hartzer, who took over from Gail Kelly in February, said low interest rates together with a lower Australian dollar and support from the housing sector would support the country's economy, but that he expected "growth to be uneven across different industry sectors and geographies".

'Big miss'

Shares in the bank fell by more than 4.5% on the results as investors took in news.

"Although the headline cash profit looks solid, it was a big miss on market expectations," said Melbourne-based analysts Evan Lucas from IG Markets.

"What's more, the dividend was weaker than expected at A$0.93c a share."

Mr Lucas said Australia could be seeing the end of the mass expansion of dividends at the banks.

Australia's banks are among some of the most profitable of developed nations and survived the global financial crisis relatively unhurt.

However, a report published last year said Australian lenders needed to hold more capital to be able to survive future financial crises.

The Financial System Inquiry report singled out bank competition, increased capital levels and inefficient taxes for reform.

It also said there should be minimum education standards for financial advisers and recommended superannuation (pension fund) fees be reduced.

Westpac's Mr Hartzer said banking competition was set to remain intense, including from new entrants.

Westpac said it was continuing to build its operations in New Zealand and in Asia - including in Singapore, Hong Kong and India.

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