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SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Banco Santander Brasil SA’s second-quarter net income beat market expectations but loan-loss provisions rose sharply against a challenging macroeconomic backdrop, data released on Thursday showed.

Net profit rose 2% from the previous quarter to a better than expected 4.08 billion reais ($778.08 million), as analysts polled by Refinitiv had forecast the Brazilian unit of Spain’s Banco Santander SA would post net income of 3.88 billion.

However, Santander Brasil said in a securities filing that loan-loss provisions hit 5.75 billion reais, up 59.7% from the previous year, with general expenses up 8.4% in the same comparison.

Such indicators have been in the spotlight for market participants, with Itau BBA analysts saying in a client note that Santander Brasil was their “top name to avoid among banks” on lower coverage and already expected higher provisions.

Investors surveyed by Bank of America ahead of the earnings season said the firm was likely to deliver the weakest quarterly figures among banks with large market capitalisation in Brazil, with provision charges among their main concerns.

The third-largest private bank in the South American country, Banco Santander Brasil competes with players such as Itau Unibanco, Bradesco and state-run Banco do Brasil.

In a statement on Thursday, the company’s finance chief, Angel Santodomingo, said, “Despite a still-challenging macroeconomic environment, loan portfolio quality indicators were stable over the period.”

The lender’s loan book rose 2.9% on the quarter to 468.54 billion reais.

Brazil is the Spanish lender’s largest customer base and accounts for almost a third of underlying group profit.

($1=5.2437 reais)

(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by David Goodman and Clarence Fernandez)

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