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Written by: Staff

HONG KONG, May 3: Citigroup upgraded its recommendation for India's ICICI Bank Ltd. to ''Buy/Low Risk'' from ''Sell/Low Risk'', saying the lender's margin cycle had bottomed and asset growth drivers had broadened.

''ICICI's growth focus is now better spread out across consumer, corporate, agriculture and international. This should spread risk, limit pricing pressures of market share grab and extend the franchise, '' said analyst Aditya Narain in a note on Wednesday.

''ICICI is not a cheap stock relative to returns, but we believe that with the robust growth in an opportunity-rich environment, the company's growing franchise should support higher valuations.'' Shares in ICICI Bank, which reported a forecast-beating 28 percent jump in its quarterly net profit last Saturday, rose 5.4 percent to 621.95 rupees on Tuesday and were up 6.4 percent so far in 2006.

Citigroup lifted its target price for the stock by 27 percent to 700 rupees.

($1=44.89 Indian rupees) REUTERS

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