April 20, 2018 / 7:00 AM / in 4 months

Bank of Ireland sees first sign of net loan book growth

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Bank of Ireland’s (BIRG.I) net loan book grew slightly in the first quarter following years of repayments and redemptions exceeding improving new lending, as it reported strong demand for credit in the first three months.

Sunlight is reflected off a deposit box on the exterior of a Bank Of Ireland branch in Belfast November 12, 2010. Bank of Ireland said on Friday full-year profit would slump by more than a third, but banking shares rallied on the wider macro picture and a fall in sovereign debt. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton (NORTHERN IRELAND - Tags: BUSINESS) - GM1E6BD02QI01

The bank, which has led a return to profit across the sector in recent years following a banking crash a decade ago, had said it expected to see net loan book growth in 2018, helping boost its margins later in the year.

New lending volumes exceeded redemptions by 100 million euros (£87.7 million), it said, leaving its loan book at 76 billion euros at the end of March.

That was driven by a 20 percent year-on-year rise in new lending, including a 33 percent increase in new Irish mortgage lending that inched its share of the fast recovering market up to 28 percent.

The bank’s net interest margin (NIM), a measure of the profitability of its lending, fell to 2.22 percent from 2.24 percent at the end of 2017, although Davy Stockbrokers said in a note that this was in line with its expectations.

Ireland’s largest bank by assets, which also saw a slight increase in capital levels, said economic growth in its core markets of Ireland and Britain remained positive notwithstanding ongoing uncertainties related to Brexit.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin

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