Net profits of the British Bank of the Middle East (BBME), part of the HSBC Holdings group, rose 22 per cent in the first half of this year to £39 million ($63 million) because of steady growth in its business across the Arab world. The bank ‘recorded a good performance in the first half of 1997,’ deputy chairman Aman Mehta said.

Improved interest spreads and growth in customer advances in both the commercial and personal sectors, particularly in the UAE, Oman and Qatar, contributed to a 14 per cent rise in net interest income to £67 million ($103.7 million), BBME said in a statement. Other income also rose by 14 per cent to £33 million ($53.3 million), due to higher earnings from private banking, trade finance and foreign-exchange trading, mainly in the Gulf. The bank said that consolidated earnings would have been higher had it not been for the recent strength of sterling, its accounting currency.

Total assets at the end of June 1997 were 15 per cent higher than a year before at £3,902 million ($6,305.6 million). The rise in assets was mainly due to an increase in customer lending. ‘Deposit growth was steady at about 12 per cent, well spread across the region,’ the bank said.