Allied Irish Bank yesterday said it was doing good business in Birmingham, even after closing two branches in the city.
Its new Temple Row outlet that replaced branches in Sparkhill and Harborne was proving popular with customers, Robbie Henneberry, chief executive of the bank's British operations, which also include branches at Solihull and Sutton Coldfield, said.
Temple Row represented a £4 million investment by AIB in Birmingham and had increased its floorspace by 10 per cent to 22,000 sq ft.
Ireland's biggest bank announced better than expected first half results thanks to strong revenue growth and raised its earnings guidance for the full year.
It also had some upbeat news on bad debts, the spectre of which has returned to haunt some of the AIB'S British rivals.
Pre-tax profits for the six months to June 30 rose by 20 per cent to 851 million euros (£587 million), the Dublinbased company said.
Operating income rose by 23 per cent to 2.16 billion euros (£1.49 billion) while operating expenses rose by just eight per cent to 985 million euros (£679 million).
The profits improvement also reflected a decline in bad debt charges, which fell to 46 million euros (£32 million), or 0.13 per cent of the loan book, from 55 million euros a year earlier.
The bank, which provides mortgage finance to homebuyers in Ireland and lends to businesses in the UK, is insulated from the rise in arrears on consumer loans that is currently weighing on some British banks.
AIB said it expected continued strong loan growth over the next six months and raised its full-year earnings per share guidance to 140-142 cents, up from a previously indicated 138-140 cents.
At the half-way stage, EPS stood at 72.3 cents.
Finance director Gary Kennedy said the group expected loan growth of more than 20 per cent this year after posting an 11 per cent gain in the first half.
Deposits are now expected to grow at about 10 per cent in contrast to an earlier forecast of 10 per cent. Analysts at Keefe Bruyette & Woods, who had expected interim pre-tax profits of just 808 million euros, said: "The results confirm an excellent growth story."
AIB's net interest margin - the difference between the interest it pays savers and the interest it charges borrowers, and a key profit driver - fell to 2.55 per cent in the first half, down from 2.73 per cent a year earlier.
The decline reflected faster growth in new lending than in savings deposits, and a shift in favour of lower-margin loans such as mortgages.
The bank declared an interim dividend of 23 cents per share, an increase of 10 per cent from the previous year.