Lender aims to reclaim market share as core banking business gains momentum Wing Lung Bank, a medium-sized lender, yesterday said earnings rose 20.2 per cent in the first half, helped by higher interest and fee incomes. Operating profit at the family-run bank rose to HK$611.4 million for the first six months of this year from HK$508.8 million a year ago. Including an accounting gain of HK$418 million from the revaluation of its investment property, net profit rose 65.9 per cent to a record HK$880 million. 'I think the [business'] growing momentum will be sustained in the second half if the economy remains in good shape, but it's difficult to predict whether growth would be in line with first half,' the bank's executive director and general manager Chung Che-shum said. Net interest income rose 24.7 per cent as net interest margin widened 25 basis point to 1.88 per cent, thanks to a wider spread between the prime lending rate and the interbank lending rate, and 4.9 per cent growth in bank's loan book. Mr Chung expected the net interest margin to continue to benefit from low interest rates in the interbank market. Mortgage lending, however, shrank 3.4 per cent amid keen competition in the local market, where large banks such as HSBC and Bank of China offer discounts and rebates. Mr Chung said the bank aimed at regaining market share by offering different types of products. 'Our pricing will be competitive but we don't want to cut prices to fight for business,' he said. The bank's non-interest income rose 17.2 per cent to HK$450 million, driven by a 5.9 per cent rise in insurance operating income. Other operating income rose 27.2 per cent, boosted by a strong securities brokerage business. Non-interest income excluding insurance claims accounted for 32 per cent of the Wing Lung Bank's operating income. The bank hoped to raise that to 40 per cent in three to five years, Mr Chung said. The bank booked a surplus from investment properties after it leased out some units at its headquarters in Central and recorded a revaluation gain from Bank Centre in Mongkok after turning the first three floors into a shopping mall. The bank earlier denied speculation that it would be bought out by China Construction Bank. Chief executive Philip Wu Po-him said the bank would still be open-minded about mergers and acquisitions.