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Thai banks' profits strained by need for digital investments

Amid weak lending growth, banks forced to deal with rise of e-wallets

Thailand's top four banks reported only a 3.3% aggregate increase in lending for the first quarter, while digital advances demand heavy investments and fee cuts.

BANGKOK -- Thailand's top four banks produced aggregate net profit of 37.92 billion baht ($1.21 billion) for the first quarter ended in March, slipping 2.6% on the year as total lending grew only marginally while nonperforming loans continued to rise.

Net profit fell 20.5% for state-owned Krung Thai Bank and 4.6% for Siam Commercial Bank, while Bangkok Bank and Kasikornbank reported profit increases. The lenders face growing competition from outsiders such as e-wallet operators and other financial technology companies. Conventional banks are under pressure to lower their fee income and boost marketing expenses to keep up with the digital era.

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