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 compared to the €1.137 billion expected by analysts. 

The results are the first announced since ING became a pure bank after selling a stake in its insurance operation in July.

They were 11.4% ahead of the same time in 2013 as the bank trimmed its loan losses by 38%. 

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 not pay dividends until it has repaid all of its state aid. 

The last payment of €1.025 billion 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," he added.