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March 14 (Reuters) - British lender Close Brothers Group reported a 21 percent rise in first-half adjusted operating profit, driven by strength in its core banking business and higher trading income from market maker Winterflood.
The merchant banking group, which provides loans, wealth management and securities trading services, said on Tuesday adjusted operating profit rose to 134.2 million pounds ($162.87 million) for the six months to Jan. 31 from 111.2 million a year earlier.
The company also said Mike Biggs was to become chairman effective May 1, succeeding Strone Macpherson, who confirmed his intention to step down on April 30.
Close Brothers, founded in 1878 as a merchant bank to provide farm mortgages in Iowa, is now a specialist lender to small-and-medium size businesses in Britain.
It operates three divisions covering banking, wealth management and securities trading. About 90 percent of its profit comes from its banking business.
The loan book at the banking division rose to 6.5 billion pounds from 6.4 billion pounds at the end of July.
Total client assets at the asset management arm rose to 10.2 billion pounds from 9.9 billion at the end of July, driven by acquisition of two independent financial advisory businesses during the period.
Market maker Winterflood more than doubled its profit from the year earlier period, helped by strong retail trading.
"Macroeconomic and financial market conditions in (the) UK remain benign, but we continue to monitor developments carefully", the company said in a statement.
The lender said it would pay a 5 percent higher interim dividend of 20 pence per share.
$1 = 0.8240 pounds Reporting by Justin George Varghese and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter