Regional stockbroker WH Ireland was celebrating a strong financial performance of its own yesterday.

The Aim-listed company, which has a large operation in Birmingham, reported a 45 per cent rise in pre-tax profits for the six months to May 31 of £2.35 million on turnover of £15.9 million, a rise of nearly 45 per cent.

Turnover on a like for like basis, excluding Ireland's recently acquired Australian business and Leeds brokerage TD Waterhouse, rose by 19 per cent to £13.2 million.

Earnings per share rose by nine per cent to 8.9p and the interim dividend is to be increased by 15 per cent to 1.4375p.

Ireland also said yesterday that total funds under its management had grown to £1.1 billion.

Profits for the period were flattered by a gain of £955,000 from the sale of Ireland's holding in London Stock Exchange.

Presenting the half-year figures, chairman Sir David Trippier, said: "We continue to enjoy a strong balance sheet and the company's shares have an above-average dividend cover for the financial services sector."

Corporate finance was responsible for six Aim flotations and seven fundraising transactions that raised a total of £95.7 million during the half year.