SANTANDER'S UK arm has reported pre-tax profits of £416 million in the first quarter of the year, up 48% on a year ago as bad debt provisions continued to fall.

It provided £5.7 billion of mortgages, including £1bn to first time buyers and £62m under Help to Buy.

Lending to UK corporates rose to £22.9bn, which was up 12% from a year ago, with £1.1bn of gross lending to SMEs.

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Chief executive Ana Botin said the bank was continuing to invest in technology and customer service improvements.