Johannesburg - Standard Bank, Africa’s largest lender, said full-year profit rose 1 percent as higher costs countered an increase in interest income.

Net income climbed to 16.2 billion rand from 16 billion rand a year earlier, the Johannesburg-based bank said in a statement today.

Earnings per share excluding one-time items increased to 10.65 rand, beating the 10.32 rand median estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Standard Bank, which operates in 18 countries on the continent, said higher interest rates and subdued consumer demand will keep growth in South Africa at 2.2 percent this year, below the government’s forecast of 2.7 percent.

Growth in higher-margin unsecured lending and a repricing of mortgages in its home market helped boost interest income, the bank said.

“Competition is high in all the markets we serve and business operating environments remain challenging,” Standard Bank said in the statement.

“The group’s capital and liquidity strength, together with our firm commitment to our strategy which includes the building of world-class information systems, provides substantial opportunity to elevate our return on equity” over the medium term, it said.

Return on equity was little changed at 14.1 percent compared with 14 percent a year earlier, the bank said.

The bank plans to pay a total dividend of 533 cents per share, 17 percent higher than the 2012 payout.

Standard Bank has dropped 3.8 percent this year, making the stock the second-worst performer on the six-company FTSE/JSE Africa Banks Index after Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd. - Bloomberg News