Asia's strong economic recovery has helped to power British investment bank Flemings to a more than fivefold rise in interim profits. The parent of Jardine Fleming yesterday announced pretax profit of GBP110.1 million (about HK$1.37 billion) for the six months to September 30, against GBP20.8 million in the same period last year. The result represents a substantial turnaround for the group. Earnings were enhanced by the first full contribution from Jardine Fleming, which became a wholly owned unit of Flemings in March. The British company agreed last December to buy joint-venture partner Jardine Matheson's 50 per cent stake in Jardine Fleming for GBP180 million. The Hong Kong-based merchant bank has benefited from the rebound in Asian financial market activity. This year, Jardine Fleming gained a lucrative mandate to advise Exchange Fund Investment on the disposal of the Government's stock portfolio and it was a global co-ordinator of last month's Tracker Fund offer. Flemings chairman John Manser said: 'We have created a much stronger and more competitive Flemings group over the last 12 months. 'This, together with a return to normal levels of market activity, particularly in Asia, and the acquisition of Jardine Fleming, has contributed to the sharply improved first-half pretax profits.' The bank signalled its determination to stay independent by announcing that Mr Manser would be succeeded in March by Roddie Fleming - the fifth Fleming the family has appointed to chairman in its 126-year history. Mr Manser, who has been with the bank for 32 years, is retiring. Finance director Simon Ball said its Asian product-derived profits now accounted for about 40 per cent of pretax profit. The group said the period had witnessed a 'marked turnaround in the profitability of our Asian businesses'. 'The impact of cost control measures, taken during the recent Asian financial crisis, is now showing through and enabling increased revenues from higher funds under management to benefit the bottom line,' Flemings said. Reflecting its full ownership of Jardine Fleming, the bank said that operating income in the first half soared to GBP496.6 million from GBP225.3 million, with underlying income up by 45 per cent, after adjusting for the consolidation of Jardine Fleming. Flemings said it would pay an interim dividend of 9.5 pence per share. Jardine Matheson, now Flemings' second-largest shareholder after the Fleming family with an 18 per cent stake, will receive about GBP2.9 million. Funds under management grew 5.5 per cent to GBP70.4 billion at the end of September, and Mr Ball said that since then there had been a further 4 per cent increase in funds under management to more than GBP73 billion. Assets under management in Asia leaped by 37 per cent to GBP20.7 billion, the bank said. Investment banking was a key contributor to profits, due to improved conditions in securities trading in Asia and Africa. Net fees and commissions more than doubled to GBP365.3 million, from GBP169.5 million in the same period last year, and were just short of the GBP398.7 million in net fees and commissions earned in the whole of the 12 months to March 31 this year. Pretax profits in investment banking of GBP50.9 million in the six months to September 30, matched the investment-bank-related profits at the group for the full 12 months to March 31 last year and compared with the GBP5.8 million loss in the 12 months to March 31 this year. Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand were all major contributors to its securities-trading earnings, while in corporate finance it advised in 41 transactions, with a value of more than GBP5.5 billion. Flemings chief executive William Garrett said he expected some slowdown in activity as the new year approached, but the general outlook for the group was still encouraging.