RBS to cut $2.5b of costs after ninth straight loss

London: Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Britain’s largest taxpayer-owned bank, laid out a plan to cut costs by 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion, Dh9.2 billion) over the next four years as it posted its ninth straight annual loss and delayed profitability...

RBS to cut $2.5b of costs after ninth straight loss

London: Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Britain’s largest taxpayer-owned bank, laid out a plan to cut costs by 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion, Dh9.2 billion) over the next four years as it posted its ninth straight annual loss and delayed profitability targets.

The net loss widened to £6.96 billion in 2016 from £1.98 billion a year earlier, the Edinburgh-based lender said in a statement on Friday. Excluding conduct charges and restructuring costs, operating profit was 3.67 billion pounds, topping the 3.1 billion-pound average estimate of seven analysts compiled by Bloomberg News.

Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan remains mired in past scandals almost a decade after RBS required a 45.5 billion-pound bailout from UK taxpayers, as he battles to draw a line under surging charges tied to regulatory probes and the aborted sale of the bank’s Williams & Glyn consumer unit. RBS has now accumulated more than 58 billion pounds of losses since 2009.

“The bottom line loss we have reported today is, of course, disappointing,” McEwan said in an emailed statement. “These costs are a stark reminder of what happens to a bank when things go wrong and you lose focus on the customer, as this bank did before the financial crisis.”

The bank’s shares fell 1.5 Ultrabet per cent to 245.6 pence at 8.04am in London. The stock had climbed 11 per cent this year before today, after dropping 26 per cent in 2016.

 

Delayed target

It was a foregone conclusion that RBS would post its third-largest loss in the past decade, after it set aside 3.8 billion pounds in recent weeks for a US investigation into the sale of mortgage-backed securities, while pledging to pay to boost competitors in the UK commercial banking market to meet European Union demands tied to its bailout.

RBS said it now aimed to reach a 12 per cent return on tangible equity in 2020, one year later than planned. The bank said it would face another 1 billion pounds of restructuring charges this year, apart from additional costs tied to its plan to meet state aid obligations. RBS also expects 2017 to include most of the 800 million pounds of losses it anticipates to come from disposing of unwanted assets.

“RBS currently expects that 2017 will be its final year of substantive legacy clean up with significant one-off costs,” the bank said in its statement. “Consequently, we anticipate that the bank will be profitable in 2018.”

The European Commission probably won’t provide RBS with an update on its view on the proposed alternative to selling Williams & Glyn until at least the fourth quarter of this year, Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson said on a call with reporters. The UK and the bank will then enter a “fairly lengthy renegotiation of state aid.”

McEwan is pushing to eliminate operating expenses as he shrinks RBS, a one-time global titan, to a domestic retail and commercial lender. He’s redoubling his efforts after his plan to lower the bank’s cost-to-income ratio, a key measure of profitability, to below 50 per cent by 2020 was blown off-course after the Bank of England cut interest rates last year.

The firm’s core Tier 1 capital ratio, a measure of financial strength, fell to 13.4 per cent from 15 per cent at the end of September. The bank said it plans to have a ratio of at least 13 per cent at the end of this year, and plans to cut 20 billion pounds of risk-weighted assets from its core businesses by the end of 2018 to boost capital.

While McEwan has previously pledged to return capital to investors through dividends or share buy-backs above 13 per cent, he’s also said he needs to return the lender to profitability, pass stress tests from the Bank of England, close its US mortgage securities probes and reach a deal with the EU over Williams & Glyn.

Full-year adjusted revenue fell 5 per cent to 12.4 billion pounds. Operating costs aside from the legal and restructuring charges dropped 12 per cent to 8.22 billion pounds. The lender’s investment bank unit swung to a 201 million-pound adjusted profit for 2016, after a loss a year earlier.

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