The Midlands has contributed to a strong performance by the Bank of Ireland as it reported an increase of six per cent in pretax profits to £1.79 billion.

The bank's UK division delivered pretax profit growth of 18 per cent with Business Banking UK chipping in 21 per cent for the year to March 31.

In the Midlands, the Bank of Ireland, which is Ireland's second biggest bank by market value, continued to show strong growth with income up by 59 per cent for the year.

Andrew Whelan, regional director of Bank of Ireland Business Banking UK, said: "This has been a busy and productive year for us.

"These results show just how active we have been in supporting businesses in the Midlands."

The bank has recruited 10 people in the region this year, including a specialised property team established in the new Nottingham city centre premises, and key appointments to the healthcare and deposits teams to meet growing demand.

The bank's Midlands finance team has provided re-finance and development facilities of £11 million to hotel operator Sketchley Grange, and has assisted with the development of a new Ramada Encore branded hotel at the NEC in Birmingham.

The Birmingham property team provided a £9 million residential development loan for Rothbury Properties, £5.5 million development funding for Osborn Securities, and agreed finance of £55 million to assist St Modwen Properties with a major mixed-use town centre regeneration scheme.

The new Nottingham office also provided assistance to a number of property schemes including an Orchard Developments office and manufacturing project at Millennium Business Park in Mansfield.

David McGowan, managing director of Bank of Ireland Business Banking UK, said: "We have achieved growth of more than 20 per cent for three consecutive years. This demonstrates the effectiveness of our strategy and our ability to deliver sustainable growth.

"Our focus has been on investing in high calibre, experienced people who can give businesses the fast, effective service they need.

"Something we find very gratifying is the fact that a high proportion of the business we win comes as a result of recommendations from existing customers.

"We are keen to build on our achievements by working closely with our customers and other established businesses in the Midlands and we are looking forward to another rewarding year."

The Bank of Ireland, which also offers financial services in 16,000 British post offices, announced underlying earnings per share rose by only four per cent to 150.3 cents from 144.6 cents a year earlier, much weaker than the 22 per cent seen at the end of March 2007.

As the end of Ireland's decade-long property boom and the global credit crisis curtailed growth, the figure was still in line with the bank's forecast for a rise of three to five per cent and matched analysts' conservative estimates.

Chief executive Brian Goggin said the bank had "absolutely no plans" to ask shareholders for extra funding, but expected to improve its capital strength this year without having to follow British banks by asking shareholders for cash.

Bank of Ireland's Equity Tier 1 ratio measure of capital strength was 5.7 per cent at the end of March, which analysts say is below the European average, but Mr Goggin commented the figure would be six per cent if calculated in the same way as British peers.

"One thing that's absolutely certain is that in improving our pure Tier 1 ratio over the next year from a combination of retained earnings and capital management initiatives, we have absolutely no plans for a rights issue," Mr Goggin said.

"We expect the slower pace of economic growth in our main markets of Ireland, the UK and the US, and the current market dislocation which characterised the second half of our financial year, to continue to impact our earnings potential in the year ahead."