Profits of Chinese banks reached a record high of 1.04 trillion yuan ($165.10 billion) in 2011, marking an increase of 15.8 percent from 2010, China's banking regulator said.
That growth, however, was slower than 34.5 percent in 2010, but it was still higher than the 14.6 percent recorded in 2009.
According to official data published over the weekend, the non-performing loan ratio fell to 1.0 percent by the end of 2011 from 1.1 percent a year ago, the average gap between lending and borrowing rates widened to 2.7 percent from 2.5 percent, and capital adequacy ratios were boosted to 12.7 percent from 12.2 percent.
The China Banking Regulatory Commission published the raw numbers on its website (www.cbrc.gov.cn), without providing any comment.
The numbers cover all commercial banks in China, including the world's most profitable banks such as Industrial and Commercial Bank of China <601398.SS> <1398.HK> and China Construction Bank <0939.HK> <601939.SS>.
The surge in profits comes amid complaints from many small businesses about a starving of bank credit.
On Saturday, China's central bank cut the amount of cash banks must hold in reserves, boosting lending capacity by an estimated 350 billion-400 billion yuan in a bid to crank up credit creation as the world's second-biggest economy faces a fifth successive quarter of slowing growth.
The government has also recently drafted special rules preventing banks from charging excessive fees.
Analysts say strong demand for loans and high charges and fees levied on clients are the main underlying factors for the growth in banks' bottom lines.
($1 = 6.2991 yuan)
(Reporting by Zhou Xin and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)