UPDATE 1-Kenya's Equity Group says 2020 pretax profit drops 30%

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NAIROBI, March 29 (Reuters) - Kenya’s Equity Group Holdings said on Monday that full-year 2020 pretax profit fell 30% to 22.17 billion shillings ($202 million), as its loan loss provisions rose due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, which also operates in South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, said its provisions for bad loans climbed to 26.63 billion shillings from 5.3 billion shillings in 2019.

Central banks in Kenya and other countries where Equity operates allowed lenders to offer relief to distressed customers in mid-March 2020 after the first COVID-19 case was reported.

Equity said it restructured 171 billion shillings of customer loans, or 32% of its total loan book.

“That has provided relief to our customers. This helped to keep the lights of the economy running,” Chief Executive James Mwangi told a virtual investor briefing.

Mwangi said that, by the end of December, 40 billion shillings of those restructured loans had resumed repayment, while another 9 billion shillings had been classified as non-performing loans.

Equity said its net loans and advances to customers rose to 477.85 billion shillings from 366.44 billion shillings, while net interest income rose to 55.15 billion shillings from 44.98 billion shillings.

It said its ratio of non-performing loans to gross loans rose to 11% from 9% in 2019, while total assets rose to 1.02 trillion shillings from 673.7 billion shillings in 2019.

$1 = 109.6500 Kenyan shillings Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Edmund Blair