INTERNATIONAL Bank of Asia (IBA) has posted a 24 per cent rise in attributable profits of $120.34 million for the six months to June, helped by lower costs and higher productivity. Earnings per share were 18.92 cents, up from 15.23 cents in 1994, and the bank has declared an interim dividend of 6.3 cents a share, up from 5.25 cents in 1994. IBA vice-chairman and chief executive Mike Murad said the bank's strongest growth was in credit cards and leasing, but the mortgage portfolio had also undergone healthy growth. 'The 24 per cent growth in profits is more impressive when you realise that there is no exceptional item to boost profits,' Mr Murad said. 'We are also pleased that our deposit programmes continue to attract new customers.' He said diversification had served the bank well. 'Our core businesses of corporate lending, trade finance and credit card, as well as the insurance subsidiary, produced excellent growth in fee income, helping to offset the fall in brokerage [revenues] earlier in the year when the stock market suffered from low turnover,' Mr Murad said. Productivity advances had underpinned lower expenses, he said. Assets per employee rose by 23 per cent to $26 million and net profit per employee increased 23 per cent to $435,000, he said. The bank's net interest income was $239.03 million, up 19 per cent on last year's first half. Operating income rose 18 per cent to $311.05 million, up 18 per cent on the previous corresponding period, and operating expenses were 16 per cent higher at $150.01 million. Return on average assets was 1.67 per cent and return on average equity was 17.23 per cent, up from 15.61 per cent in June 1994, the bank said. Customer deposits rose to $9.9 billion from $8.1 billion one year earlier, it said. It said no transfers were made to or from inner reserves during the period. Bad and doubtful debt charges were seven per cent higher at $16.15 million. The bank's net assets rose to $15.94 billion, from $13.46 billion. Bank executives predicted the same level of profit growth in the second half, although the interest rate trend was still not clear. A spokesman said the bank did not engage in any proprietary trading and all foreign exchange and treasury operations were customer-driven. During the period the bank opened its 23rd branch and bought a Kennedy Town site to continue expanding its network. IBA raised US$40 million through a floating-rate certificate of deposit (FRCD) and has just completed a US$75 million FRCD which was lifted to US$90 million. Despite the slowdown in the property market, the loan portfolio grew 21 per cent, with about a third coming from mortgage lending.