NATIONAL Westminster Bank shares rose 10 per cent last week after analysts raised their recommendation on Britain's third-largest bank following surprisingly strong first-half profits. The shares rose to 1,173 even as the FT-SE 100 index dropped more than 4 per cent.

NatWest said first-half pre-tax profit rose 49 per cent to pounds 967m due mainly to strong gains in UK banking and in the asset management division.

The bank has reduced the number of its branches and has improved its processing facilities to generate more income while reducing costs.

Return on equity rose to 18.1 per cent from 12.5 per cent a year earlier.