SHANGHAI, April 26 (Reuters) - Bank of China Ltd (BoC) , the country's fourth-biggest lender by assets, posted a 1.7 percent rise in first-quarter net profit on Tuesday, even as bad loans weighed on its balance sheet.
Profit rose to 46.6 billion yuan ($7.18 billion) in the three months ended March 31, from 45.8 billion yuan a year earlier.
While BoC said its non-performing loan ratio remained flat at 1.43 percent at end-March from end-December, the ratio of its allowance for loan impairment losses fell to 149.07 percent, below 150 percent guideline of China's banking regulator.
BoC reported a loan-loss allowance ratio of 154 percent at the end of last year.
Chinese banks are grappling with a rise in bad debt and weak profit growth due to China's economic slowdown. The world's second-largest economy grew at its weakest pace in a quarter century in 2015.
BoC reported that its return on average equity declined 2.16 percentage points during the first three months to 14.77 percent, from 16.93 percent at the end of last year.
BoC stock gained 0.95 percent to close at HK$3.20 in Hong Kong trading. The shares have lost 7.5 percent so far this year, and shed more than 40 percent over the last 12 months.
It is the first of China's Big Five banks to report first-quarter earnings.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) , Agricultural Bank of China Ltd and Bank of Communications Co Ltd will report earnings on Thursday, followed by China Construction Bank Corp on Friday.
($1 = 6.4953 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Engen Tham; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)