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ING second-quarter profit tops estimates as customer base expands

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch bank ING Group (INGA.AS) on Thursday reported a 1.5 percent rise in second-quarter underlying pretax profit to 2.02 billion euros (£1.79 billion), beating analysts' expectations, boosted by a strong economy and growing customer base.

Analysts polled by Reuters on average expected a fall in earnings to 1.83 billion euros, from 1.99 billion euros a year ago.

About 400,000 primary customers were added in the second quarter, taking the total to 12 million, while core lending increased by 14.2 billion euros and the interest margin remained stable at 1.5 percent, the largest Dutch-based financial services provider said.

Provisions for bad loans fell to 115 million euros from 229 million euros a year earlier, as strong economic growth in the Netherlands and beyond pulled down risk costs.

ING's total income slipped 1 percent to 4.84 billion euros on negative currency effects and a weak performance of its Financial Markets division.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Sunil Nair and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)