SYDNEY, AAP – Bank of Queensland has posted increases in first-half cash earnings and profit, and says its retail business has improved through a growing number of home loans.

The bank on Thursday reported cash earnings after tax rose nine per cent to $165 million.

Net profit after tax surged by 66 per cent to $154 million.

The retail arm improved its home loans portfolio by $795 million, and the bank said this was accelerating.

Bank of Queensland in February said it would buy ME Bank. Chief executive George Frazis on Thursday said he anticipated the purchase would be completed by the end of the financial year.

Shareholders will receive an interim payout of 17 cents per share, fully franked. This is more than the previous fully franked interim dividend of 11 cents per share.

Shares were lower by 0.45 per cent to $8.86 at 1116 AEST.