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UK merchant bank Close Brothers Group posted a 1.4 per cent rise its loan book over the three months to 31 October, boosted by strong growth in its property and premium finance divisions. In a trading update on Thursday, Close stated its loan book had grown to £7bn over the first quarter, up from £6.9bn at the end of July. Both the net interest margin and bad debt ratio remained in line with the last financial year with credit performance and trading conditions remaining stable. Close said: As expected, the Asset and Motor Finance loan books remained broadly flat, as we maintain our underwriting and pricing discipline. In September the bank released full-year financial results in which it said it was experiencing increased competition in those areas and focusing on protecting its margins. Positive market movements and strong net inflows also benefited the asset management division. Managed asserts grew by 6.5 per cent over the first quarter to £9.5bn, up from £8.9bn at the end of July 2017. Total client assets grew to £11.7bn, up from £11.2bn. No figures were issued for Winterflood, but Close said its securities division “benefited from continued retail trading activity”. In September, Close reported a 48 per cent rise in Winterflood’s operating profit from the year before, to £28.1m over the 12 month months to July 31. Close added that it had “achieved a good performance in the first quarter and, at this early stage, remain well positioned for the remainder of the financial year”.