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Chinese banks' profits soar amid euro crisis

By Molly Gray, for CNN
updated 7:47 AM EDT, Tue July 3, 2012
  • World's three most-profitable banks are all Chinese state-owned banks
  • Industrial Commercial Bank of China takes top spot with $43B profit last year
  • European banks plummet in rankings, making up 24 of 25 worst-performing banks
  • American banks Bank of American and JP Morgan Chase take top two spots

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Chinese banks have left European banks behind in terms of their profitability during the eurozone crisis, according to a global survey of 1,000 banks released Tuesday by The Banker magazine.

The world's most profitable bank Industrial Commercial Bank of China made $43.2 billion in pre-tax profits last year, followed by China Construction Bank Corporation and the Bank of China, which took in $34.8 billion and $26.8 billion respectively.

JP Morgan Chase and Co. of the United States took fourth while the Agricultural Bank of China rounded out the top five.

Chinese banks accounted for 4% of profits in 2007, but following the economic downturn, now make up nearly one-third (29.3%) of total global profits. Eurozone banks by contrast now make up just 6% of total bank profits, compared to 46% five years ago.

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"We are seeing a real divergence among different groups of banks around the world," the magazine's editor Brian Caplen told CNN. "European banks are on their knees with this euro crisis."

To further demonstrate how European banks have fallen during the euro crisis, 24 of the 25 worst-performing banks came from within Europe, with the National Bank of Greece ranked as the worst.

Since 2007, China has overtaken the UK, Europe and the U.S. as having the greatest share of the top 1,000 profits, while Europe dropped from the greatest share to third greatest.

"If you look back five years, Chinese banks were nowhere," Caplen said. "Now you're looking at 30% of global banking profits."

While some are suspicious of the state-owned banks' figures, Caplen said Chinese banks can be trusted just as much as any other banks.

"We get most of our numbers straight from the central bank of China. Are they done according to international accounting standards? In some cases yes, in some cases no," he said. "I mean you could ask a broader question, do we believe any banks' numbers?"

When ranked overall, U.S. banks Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase and Co. took the top two spots, followed by the ICBC and HSBC Holdings.

An economic slowdown in China would be everyone's problem

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