- Specialist lender Paragon Banking Group booked an 8.7% advance in underlying first-half profit on rising income.

Pre-tax profit for the year through March fell to £72.0m, down from £77.2m on-year.

However underlying profit rose 8.7% to £79.8m, as lending volumes grew 30% to £1.29bn.

The bank's net interest margin improved to 224 basis points, up from 216 basis points on-year.

Paragon Banking declared an interim dividend of 7.0p per share, up 27% on-year.

'We have delivered a strong first half, with increased profits benefiting from good growth in lending and improved margins,' chief executive Nigel Terrington said.

'This reflects our strategic transformation to become a more broadly based banking group focussed on supporting British SMEs and consumers in specialist lending markets.'

'The half year performance provides further evidence of the success of Paragon's five-year transformation into a specialist banking group.'

'Our diversification will enable us to continue to grow our customer base and deliver improving returns to shareholders.'

Story provided by