Bank of Ireland has reported lower profits for 2018 despite its net lending growing for the first time in a number of years. 

The bank said its pre-tax profits for the 12 months to the end of December eased to €835m from €852m in 2017, but its net lending rose to €1.3 billion. 

Meanwhile, its underlying profit before tax fell by 13.3% to €935m from €1.078 billion in 2017.

The bank said its Irish mortgage business performed strongly with €2.3 billion of new residential mortgage lending, up 17% on the 2017 levels. 

Bank of Ireland said it had a "stable" market share of 27% and it re-entered the Irish mortgage broker market in the last quarter of 2018. 

It also said its Non-Performing Exposures (loans) reduced by 24% to €5 billion and its NPE ratio now stands at 6.3%. It also gained €42m in impairment gains.

In today's results statement, the bank said it would increase its dividend to 16 cents from 11.5 cent in 2017.

"2018 has been a year of business growth, improved efficiency, and progress in the transformation of our culture, systems and business model," Bank of Ireland's chief executive Francesca McDonagh said. 

Ms McDonagh said the bank is on the right track to achieve its 2021 commitments. 

"We are mindful of the risks and uncertainties relating to Brexit and the global economy. However, we are committed to making further progress against our strategic objectives in the year ahead," the CEO added.