Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Australia's largest regional lender, on Monday posted a 9.5 percent rise in cash earnings for the six months ending Dec. 31, 2013. The bank made a cash profit of 185.9 million AU dollars (168.3 million U.S. dollars) in the six months to Dec. 31, up from 169.7 million AU dollars (153.6 million U.S. dollars) in the same period a year ago. The bank's managing director Mike Hirst said the consequences of a low growth environment were reflected in the result, but were balanced by the work completed over the past few years on strengthening the bank's balance sheet. "We're seeing low growth due to subdued demand and an increase in people making additional efforts to pay down their debt," he said in a statement. "This is most evident in our mortgage and our rural bank portfolios." Hirst said the bank had strengthened its business after years of diversifying businesses through acquisitions. "We've moved from consolidation to strengthening and now we' re entering an investment phase,"he said.