BankAmerica Corp.'s Hong Kong banking arm, the company's most profitable business outside the U.S., reported that its 1998 net profit rose 2.2%, as it avoided many of the bad loans that dragged down earnings for Hong Kong banks.

Net profit for the Hong Kong arm of the largest U.S. bank rose to $81.6 million for the year.

The BankAmerica unit, called Bank of America (Asia) Ltd., was insulated from bad debts, which were less than 1% of total loans in 1998, compared with an average of about 4% for Hong Kong banks.

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