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UPDATE 1-UK national benefit resists despite pandemic

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LONDON, Nov. 20 (Reuters) – The Nationwide Building Society reported strong half-year profits on Friday despite the blow to a provision to cover likely bad loans due to the coronavirus and the loss of ground to rivals in the buoyant mortgage market British.

The lender reported pre-tax profit of 361 million pounds ($ 478.47 million) for the six months ending September, up 17% from 309 million pounds the previous year.

The main mortgage lender – Britain’s second-largest provider of home loans – said it was boosted by strong demand for mortgages to rent, although its net lending during the period fell to £ 1.6bn , against 3 billion a year earlier.

Unlike its bigger rival Lloyds – which gained market share over the summer amid a boom in the number of people moving due to the coronavirus – Nationwides’ share of net lending during the period considered fell to 5.2%, from 9.6% the previous year. Its gross loan market share fell from 12.3% to 12%.

What we’ve focused on is lending in certain areas that are really at the heart of our goals, such as first-time buyers, CEO Joe Garner told reporters. We have been very targeted in our loans. We don’t do market share for the sake of market share.

CFO Chris Rhodes said the lender also lost ground due to the focus on home purchases – which were hit the hardest in the early months of the pandemic – ahead of the amortization and cited the challenges operational lockout.

The lender has made a provision of 139 million pounds for loans that may not be repaid due to the pandemic.

The results covered most of Britain’s first lockdown and the reopening of much of the economy over the summer, but failed to capture the impact of more recent economic and social restrictions.

Rhodes said the group’s forecast also ignored encouraging vaccine news in recent weeks as it came after the period.

Sara Bennison, the lenders’ product and marketing director, said government support programs had limited the impact of the pandemic on customers.

Only 15,000 of Nationwide’s 246,000 clients who received mortgage payment holidays required additional support beyond six months, Rhodes said.

Reporting by Iain Withers; edited by Rachel Armstrong and Jason Neely

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