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Danske makes pre-tax profits of £45.9m as it issues call for no-deal to be avoided

Digital growth: Kevin Kingston
Digital growth: Kevin Kingston
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Danske Bank in Northern Ireland reiterated its call for a no-deal Brexit to be avoided as it revealed pre-tax profits of £45.9m for the first half of the year.

While pre-tax profits were up 13% on the first half of 2018, it said the "elongated" Brexit process had resulted in "subdued" lending to business, particularly bigger firms.

Total income was up 1% at £117.2m compared to £116m a year earlier, while operating profit was £47.8m.

The bank said the rise in pre-tax profits was due to a fall in loan impairments, which were down from £5.8m last year to £1.9m this year. Lending was 5% higher year-on-year despite economic uncertainty, and personal account customer activity was "satisfactory".

The bank said it was providing "attractive" mortgage rates, leading to home-loan lending volumes hitting their highest ever level. And customer deposits had grown from £7.08bn to £7.2bn.

However, new borrowing by businesses had been impacted by Brexit, with some bigger customers delaying investment decisions, the bank said.

Chief executive Kevin Kingston said lending had been mainly to existing business customers who were expanding or preparing for Brexit.

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And he said it was "imperative" that the UK Government concludes a deal for leaving the EU as he cited its own economic forecast, which predicts economic growth of 1% this year and 1.3% next year on the basis that a no-deal Brexit is avoided. Mr Kingston said: "It is imperative that the Government uses the coming months to agree with the EU on an amicable resolution to the Brexit impasse.

"We, alongside the overwhelming majority of the business community, remain resolute in our view that a no-deal Brexit must be avoided."

Mr Kingston said the bank's digital activity was growing, with a 19% increase in digital transactions year-on-year.

The firm had invested in its digital platforms, including a new mobile banking app - with its predecessor no longer available from September 10. And it said it would also launch a business ebanking product called District later this year. As well as its growth in mortgage lending, Mr Kingston said the bank was supplying finance for 50% of applicants to Co-Ownership, the organisation which helps people get a foot on the housing ladder.

Meanwhile, parent company Danske Bank in Copenhagen reported net profit of 7bn Danish kroner after a "challenging" half-year.

Net profit was down 24% from the first half of 2018.

And it said it had lost retail customers of its NemKonto account in Copenhagen as a result of what it called "the Estonia case" - money laundering at its Estonia branch from 2007 to 2015.

Belfast Telegraph