- Specialist lender Paragon Banking reported a 69% rise in first-half profit, buoyed by an improved interest margin and lower loan provision losses.

Pre-tax profit for the six months through March jumped to £96.4 million, up from £57.1 million year-on-year.

Operating income climbed 3.3% to £154.7 million as the company's net interest margin -- the difference between interest earned on loans and paid on deposits -- rose 3 basis points to 2.32%.

Provisions for losses fell to £6.0 million, down from £30.0 million year-on-year.

Paragon Banking declared an interim dividend of 7.2p per share, up from zero payout year-on-year. The interim dividend was 50% of 2020's final dividend, in line with company policy.

New lending levels leapt 45% from the second half of 2020 and were now just below the pre-pandemic run-rate.

'We have delivered record half-year profits and go into the second half of 2021 with strong momentum, healthy new business pipelines and enhanced margins,' chief executive Nigel Terrington said.

'We look forward to the second half with strong capital ratios, prudent liquidity and with growing confidence as the UK emerges from the Covid crisis.'

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