SYDNEY, AAP – Bank of Queensland, one of Australia’s leading regional banks, has posted a jump in first half profit, after keeping a lid on costs as loan impairments fell.

The Brisbane-based bank, which has more than 160 branches across the nation, reported net cash earnings of $268 million, up 14 per cent from the prior corresponding half.

Its bottom line result was a net profit of $212 million, up 38 per cent.

“This has been achieved during a period of ongoing economic uncertainty from COVID,” CEO George Frazis said on Thursday.

BoQ’s loan impairment expense was a credit of $15 million in the half, as a result of a more favourable economic outlook and a strong housing market.

But its net interest margin – the earnings on loan interest versus interest paid on deposits – was 1.74 per cent, a decrease of 12 basis points, due to ongoing competition, higher fixed rate lending volumes and other factors.

Customer deposits expanded by $1.8 billion in the half.

The bank has also been bedding down its $1.3 billion acquisition last year of the online-based ME Bank.

It is forecasting synergy benefits to increase from between $70 million and $80 million to $95 million in fiscal 2024 and beyond.

“We are a step closer to realising our bold strategy of building a truly multi-brand, cloud-based, digital retail bank,” Mr Frazis said.

Looking ahead, the bank conceded there may still be uncertainty associated with COVID-19 over the next year.

“We will continue to maintain a prudent approach to provisioning,” Mr Frazis said.

The bank declared a fiscal 2022 interim dividend of 22 cents per share.

Most BoQ branches are run by local owner-managers.