UPDATE 1-Georgian bank TBC first-half profit jumps on loan growth

(Adds details on earnings, buyback, analyst comment)

July 29 (Reuters) - Georgia’s largest retail lender TBC Bank Group Plc said on Monday its first-half profit rose by nearly a fifth, as its loan book saw strong growth.

The results come less than a week after TBC’s former chair, Mamuka Khazaradze, stepped down following money laundering charges, which chipped away nearly 17% off TBC’s market value.

The company also appointed independent director Nikoloz Enukidze as its chairman with immediate effect.

Underlying net profit for the six month ended June rose 18.8% to 258.3 million laris ($88.92 million), TBC Bank said, as loan book expanded by 14.7% at constant currency.

The Tbilisi-based bank, listed in London in 2016, reiterated its targets for the medium term and has historically benefited from the economic strength in Georgia.

However, the country’s central bank head has warned that annual inflation could exceed the 3% target by the end of the year, due in part to a spat with neighbouring Russia.

TBC shares were up 2% in early deals on Monday after the company also announced a share buyback of up to 20 million pounds ($24.71 million) and reported a 24.5% jump in total customer deposits 9.88 billion laris as of June 30.

Last week, the company said Khazaradze and his deputy Badri Japaridze decided to step down from TBC’s board, a day after prosecutors charged them with money laundering.

Khazaradze had called the charges against him and his fellow banker “absurd”.

“The case (against the executives) does not affect the operations of the bank and we are confident TBC will continue to deliver solid results as demonstrated again today,” Peel Hunt said in a note. ($1 = 2.9050 laris) ($1 = 0.8095 pounds) (Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Gopakumar Warrier)