RECORD levels of lending today helped mortgage giant Bradford & Bingley post an 8% rise in profits for 2006.
The Bingley-based company lifted gross residential lending by 43% to hit £10.3bn - helped by 20% growth in its buy-to-let business.
Underlying pre-tax profits rose by £310.1m a year ago to stand at £336.1m. That exceeds the consensus forecast of £333.4m from 21 analysts polled by the company.
Some analysts voiced fears that B&B's buy-to-let exposure could hurt the company as amateur landlords felt the pinch of three interest rate rises since August.
But B&B said its specialist markets - buy-to-let and self-certified mortgages - were growing at a faster rate than the mainstream mortgage market. Buy-to-let grew by 20% in 2006 and self-cert business by 46%.
Chief executive Steven Crawshaw said: "The buy-to-let market is supported by good tenant demand and steadily rising rents, both of which are driven by an increasingly mobile and fragmented population.
"We expect the underlying attractiveness of the private rental market will encourage property investors to continue to use buy-to-let as a long-term investment."
The lender said credit quality remained strong.
It also reported strong trading during the opening weeks of this year.