BANK of the South Pacific (BSP) has reported an increase of K4.45 million in profits after tax for the six months for the first six months of the 2015 calendar year.

The 1.7 per cent profit increase, to K266.965 million from K262.5 million in the first half of 2014, came despite a 4% fall in revenues to K795.7 million – a fall the bank attributed to challenging economic conditions and reduced margins on foreign exchange.

Total assets of the group increased by about K755 million to K16.631 billion over the period, with the bank’s portfolio of loans and Townsville in Australia, will now provide coastal and river shipping services in PNG.

Steamships’ domestic projects and charters capability consists of a fleet of nine landing craft, one small bunker, two river suitable tugs and two flat barges.

“Consort intends that this merger will enhance its ability to provide its customers with increased shipping options throughout PNG,” Consort said in an announcement. ladvances to customers rising K211.6 million to K7.029 billion.

BSP said it would pay an interim dividend of 22.5 toea per ordinary share for 2015 following the profit announcement, noting that this represented a gross interim dividend amount of about K105 million, up from the previous year’s K93 million.

Bank chairman Sir Kostas Constantinou said the payment of the dividend reflected the bank’s commitment to its shareholders and its desire to ensure that all shareholders benefit from its performance.

While reiterating that economic activity in Papua New Guinea was more constrained than in previous years, in part due to the impact of reduced margins of foreign exchange transactions, Sir Kostas said he had confidence in BSP’s capacity to fill these revenue gaps.

This was in part from the recently established BSP Finance business in PNG and Fiji and also continued growth in Fiji and Solomon Islands markets, he said.

Sir Kostas also welcomed the finalisation of BSP’s acquisition of Westpac Bank’s operations in Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands for A$91 mil lion.

BSP and Westpac also remain committed to obtaining regulatory approvals in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, he said in a statement.