Photo by Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images.

Johannesburg - Nedbank, the South African bank controlled by Old Mutual, said first-half profit rose 18 percent after bad debts declined and net interest income increased.

Net income climbed to 4.6 billion rand from 3.91 billion rand a year earlier, the Johannesburg-based lender said in a statement today.

Earnings per share excluding one-time items rose 16 percent to 9.65 rand, as impairments declined by almost 30 percent.

Nedbank, South Africa’s fourth-largest lender by assets, is searching for growth in the rest of the continent through an alliance with Togo-based Ecobank Transnational and the acquisition of a stake in Banco Unico in Mozambique.

First-half profit was boosted by an increase in net interest income, chief executive Mike Brown said in the statement.

“In a volatile and slowing economic environment our full-year guidance for growth in organic diluted headline earnings per share of greater than the growth in nominal gross domestic product remains unchanged,” the bank said.

Nedbank has until the end of November to convert the $285 million (R3 billion) loan it made to Ecobank in 2011 into an equity holding and then increase the stake to as much as 20 percent.

The bank proposed a first-half dividend of 4.60 rand. - Bloomberg News