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Australia's Westpac Banking posts 11 per cent increase in half year profit to $3.4 billion

SYDNEY – Westpac Banking Corp., one of Australia’s largest banks, posted an 11 per cent rise in half-year profit on Friday to 3.3 billion Australian dollars ($3.4 billion) as it pursued growth opportunities.

The Sydney-based bank’s profits for the six months to March 31 were up from AU$2.9 billion for the same period a year earlier.

Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly said the results showed the benefits of the bank’s strategy of targeting high growth opportunities in the sector.

“The operating environment continues to be challenging, with subdued lending growth,” she said in a statement. “However, in line with our strategy, we are actively targeting opportunities in higher growth areas where conditions are more favourable such as deposits, wealth, trade finance and natural resources.”

She said there were promising signs of improved consumer confidence, but business confidence and the investment outlook remained subdued.

Cash earnings for the half were up 10 per cent to AU$3.5 billion.

Australian banks proved resilient against the global economic downturn and remain among a handful of banks in the world to maintain AA credit ratings.