(Corrects million to billion in first paragraph)
LONDON Aug 6 The banking arm of Dutch financial giant ING beat earnings forecasts in the second quarter of the year, returning underlying pretax profits of 1.278 billion euros against the 1.137 billion euros expected by analysts.
The results, the first announced since ING became a pure bank after selling a stake in its insurance operation in July, were 11.4 percent ahead of the same period in 2013 as the bank trimmed its loan losses by 38 percent.
The second quarter of 2014 also benefited from a 0.04 percentage point rise in ING's net interest margin - the spread between what it pays for funding and what it earns from lending - continuing a trend also seen in the first three months.
The better-than-expected results raise hopes that ING may be able to resume paying a dividend sooner rather than later. The bank can't pay dividends until it has repaid all of its state aid. The last payment of 1.025 billion euros is due in May 2015 but the bank has said it will repay faster if it can.
"We are very proud of the progress that we have made with the restructuring over the past several years, which has brought ING Group well into the end stage of our transformation," said group chief executive Ralph Hamers. "We are moving forward as a stronger, simpler and more sustainable company." (Reporting by Laura Noonan; Editing by Christopher Cushing)