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Johannesburg - FirstRand, South Africa’s second-largest lender, said fiscal first-half profit a share probably increased by as much as 19 percent.

Earnings excluding one-time items climbed by 24 percent to 29 percent in the six months to Dec. 31 from 103.3 cents a year earlier, the Johannesburg-based bank said in a statement today.

FirstRand shares rose as much as 3.2 percent, the most in more than five weeks, and were 1.8 percent higher at 31.06 rand as of 3:17 p.m. in Johannesburg trading.

The stock has gained 26 percent over the past 12 months, making it the best performer among South Africa’s four biggest banks.

FirstRand increased consumer lending in 2012 and added more customers through its First National Bank unit even as the South African economy slowed.

The company, which is due to publish full first-half results on March 5, also boosted earnings at its vehicle financing unit. - Bloomberg