Ulster Bank reports first profit since 2008 as loan losses fall

Bank reports operating profit of £55 million (€67m) in the first half of the year as impairment losses fall

Jim Brown CEO Ulster Bank said that the bank’s return to profitability is down to “the success of our existing strategy and sustained progress across all areas of the bank”. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Jim Brown CEO Ulster Bank said that the bank’s return to profitability is down to “the success of our existing strategy and sustained progress across all areas of the bank”. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 10:36

Ulster Bank made an operating profit of £55 million (€ 67 million) in the first half of 2014, a first profit for the bank since the financial crisis broke in 2008.

This compared with a loss of £381 million in the first six months of 2013, with the improvement primarily driven by a significant reduction in impairment losses across all portfolios.

The Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary said it made an adjusted operating profit of £69 million for the period, a second consecutive quarterly profit. This compared with a loss of £335 million for the first half of 2013.

Its net interest margin improved by 50 basis points to 2.32 per cent and its net interest income increased by £21 million.

Ulster Bank’s expenses improved by £22 million as a result of a continued focus on cost control and a reduction in restructuring and conduct-related costs.

Impairment losses reduced by £446 million while its loan/deposit ratio improved to 108 per cent.

The bank said the “macroeconomic environment across the island of Ireland has stabilised considerably but trading conditions continue to be volatile and the regulatory environment remains challenging”.

Commenting on the results, chief executive Jim Brown said: “Today’s results demonstrate a second consecutive quarterly profit, the success of our existing strategy and sustained progress across all areas of the bank.

“The half-year adjusted operating profit of £69m (€ 84m) reflects an improvement in net interest margin, a reduction in expenses and an improvement in impairment losses.

“Impairment losses have improved by 89 per cent, while the number of customers in mortgage arrears has now decreased month on month for the past 15 months, reflecting the investment to date in supporting customers in difficulty.

“In total, the number of customers in arrears in the Republic of Ireland has reduced by 10,000 compared to the same point in 2012.

“We are approving over 90 per cent of applications and our tailored supports for agriculture, start-ups, food/ drink and manufacturing are driving much of this demand. We have seen a 44 per cent increase in mortgage drawdowns and 45 per cent increase in mortgage offers compared to H1 2013.”