The new corporate banking office opened last year by Allied Irish Banks in Temple Row, Birmingham, to raise its profile in the West Midlands has got off to a good start in a year of exceptionally few bad debts from corporate or business lending.
Lending in England, Scotland and Wales rose by more then ten per cent in the sectors where it concentrates - healthcare, property and property services, hotels and education - said Robbie Henneberry, head of AIB (GB).
"We would also look at trading companies, in wholesale distribution rather than manufacturing," he noted.
"They have local discretion in Birmingham for up to £5 million. We don't do it as a transaction bank. We try to look at the whole of a business."
By sticking to corporate and business banking in Britain, AIB escaped the consumer slowdown and bad credit card debts reported by some other banks.
Profits from AIB (GB) rose by 25 per cent last year to 169 million euroes (£115 million) slightly faster than the 1.706 billion euros (£1.165 billion) reported yesterday for AIB as a whole.
A final dividend of 42.3 euro cents a share gives shareholders a ten per cent increase for the year and puts the shares on a yield of 3.3 per cent after they went 12 cent higher to 19.82 euros.
"It has been an exceptional year, a very strong performance, and we have very solid foundations in every respect to go forward," said AIB group finance director John O'Donnell.
He said the bank, Ireland's biggest listed company with a market capitalisation of 17 billion euros, was anticipating "low double-digit" earnings growth for 2006.
AIB said pretax profits from its operations in the Irish Republic rose by 24 per cent to 780 million euros.
"Strong demand continues to drive momentum and underpins our confidence in the outlook for 2006 and beyond," said chief executive Eugene Sheehy.
The bank's loan growth in Ireland was up 28 per cent last year. Business lending was up by 31 per cent, mortgage lending by 24 per cent, and personal lending by 25 per cent. There was also an increase of 20 per cent in deposits.
Mr O'Donnell said the bank agreed with economists' fore-casts for Irish economic growth of around five per cent for the next two years.
"Last year we added 70,000 clients, and the fact we're continuing to grow market share in deposits and business lending and so on is critical," he said.
AIB is located in the euro zone's best economies, Mr O'Donnell added. Its strategy was to concentrate on organic growth opportunities in those markets.