DUBLIN -- Allied Irish Banks PLC said it was confident of a recovery in loan demand in Ireland, the United States, and Britain next year.
"We expect some pickup in all three major markets early next year," Allied finance director Kevin Kelly said after the company reported a 42% rise in pretax profits in the first half, but a slowdown in lending.
"In the United States, there's been a very small pickup in loans of about 0.2% or 0.3% since the yearend," Mr. Kelly said. He said he could not detail progress in other markets.
|Good Mix of Locations'
"The three economies we operate in are still fragile," he said. "Banks lag economic pickup, so we think it will be next year before we feel the benefit."
But he added, We're still confident we have a strategically good mix of locations balancing the ebbs and flows."
The companies U.K. outlook is stable "until loan demand picks up toward the end of the year," Mr. Kelly said.
Capital market trade was the highlight, but Mr. Kelly said Allied made only $7 million to $14 million of exceptional European Rate Mechanism-related gains.
"We're still well-positioned ... we'd see a continuation of fairly satisfactory performance," Mr. Kelly said. Second-half growth would remain in double digits, he indicated.
The strong performance of Allied's U.S. subsidiary First Maryland Bancorp contrasted with a $11.99 million loss at Allied Irish Banks New York, Mr. Kelly said.
But he added: "We feel we are about to turn the corner. We'd be disappointed if we didn't... at least break even." Asked whether that would be possible by the year end, he said the company had some optimism, but it was too early to say.
Record Rate Increases Hurt
In Ireland, unprecedented rises in interest rates in the last quarter of 1992 were a huge blow to investor confidence, Mr. Kelly said.
"It's taken time for confidence to return, but we're seeing some slight indications."
The company boosted its half-year dividend 7.9% to $5.74 per share. Asked about prospects for a further dividend rise for the full year, Mr. Kelly would say only, "It is the board's policy to pay well in excess of Irish interest rates."