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NAB reports net profit up 23 percent in first half

SYDNEY (AP) -- National Australia Bank Ltd. said Thursday its first-half profit rose 23 percent due in part to higher profit margins as home loans increased.

The bank said Thursday that profits for the period ending March 31 rose to 2.9 billion Australian dollars ($3 billion) from AU$2.5 billion in the same period a year ago, which included large losses from NAB's British businesses.

NAB's cash profit, the banking industry's preferred measure of underlying performance, was up 3 percent to AU$2.9 billion.

"NAB has delivered a solid March half year result, with continued growth in the Australian and New Zealand businesses and a stronger balance sheet," chief executive Cameron Clyne said in a statement.

The bank said higher earnings from personal banking due to growing numbers of home loans and stronger margins on those loans was a main factor behind the profit growth.

Clyne provided no outlook for the bank, but said its recently updated business strategy and technology upgrade would improve customer service, reduce errors and cut costs.

As part of those measures, NAB cut 668 full-time workers in the latest half, taking its fulltime workforce to 42,668.

NAB posted the smallest cash profit among Australia's four largest banks, and the weakest growth.

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