Liu Chong Hing Bank's net profit in the six months to June 30 increased 27.1 per cent from a year earlier to HK$235.05 million. The bank's 45.1 per cent stakeholding parent, Liu Chong Hing Investment, reported net profit for the same period of HK$182.49 million, up 3 per cent on the corresponding period last year. 'Basically the bank enjoyed a sharp increase in operating income before provisions, which was up 21.7 per cent from HK$293.2 million to HK$356.9 million,' commented executive director Nam Lee Yick. Net interest income was up 16.4 per cent to HK$467.66 million, and this improvement, said Mr Nam, was mainly due to an increase in the net interest margin from 2.38 per cent to 2.59 per cent. The bank's loan book slipped from HK$19.26 billion at the end of last year to HK$18.44 billion, but this was after a sharp increase in lending in the second half, said Mr Nam, and on a year-on-year basis end-June advances were up 8.4 per cent on June last year. Non-interest income, driven mainly by contributions from the bank's stockbroking division, was up to HK$100.56 million from HK$77.24 million in June last year. Provisioning for bad and doubtful debts was down to HK$73.7 million from HK$86.32 million. On the outlook for the second half, Mr Nam said that the bank was 'very positive and optimistic'. 'Usually loan demand in the second half is higher, so our earnings should be higher.' At a per-share level, earnings worked out at 54 HK cents compared with 43 HK cents previously, and the bank declared a dividend of 18 HK cents against 15 HK cents previously. The bank's share price closed unchanged yesterday at HK$7.75, though volume of shares traded, at 1.3 million, was almost three times the 30-day average.