Australia Markets close in 4 hrs 17 mins

Royal Bank of Scotland falls into third-quarter net loss

by Roland Jackson
State-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland on Friday posted a third-quarter net loss of £1.384 billion on massive accounting charges and warned it would likely face fines over the Libor rate-rigging scandal.

State-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland on Friday posted a third-quarter net loss of £1.384 billion on massive accounting charges and warned it would likely face fines over the Libor rate-rigging scandal.

The shortfall for the July-September period, equivalent to $2.28 billion or 1.726 billion euros, compared with a net profit of £1.226 billion in the same part of the previous year, the bank said in a results statement.

RBS, which is 81-percent owned by the government after a huge bailout amid the global financial crisis, was forced into the red after taking an eye-watering £1.455-billion charge on changes to the value of its debt.

The Edinburgh-based lender also booked another £400 million hit to compensate clients who were mis-sold insurance. That took its total bill for the payment protection insurance (PPI) affair to £1.7 billion.

What's more, the group added that the cost of an IT meltdown in June had risen by £50 million to a total of £175 million.

At the same time, RBS sold another £7.0 billion of non-core assets, while impairment losses were cut to £1.176 billion as the bank sought to reshape its business to return to profitability.

Operational profit, stripping out exceptional charges, soared to £1.05 billion in the third quarter, from £2.0 million last time around.

"The RBS restructuring programme continues to make excellent progress as we take the action needed to make the bank safer and stronger," said chief executive Stephen Hester.

"Our funding and capital position has been transformed, we have repaid all emergency loans from the government and central banks, and we recently exited the asset protection scheme without ever making a claim."

Turning to the Libor affair, RBS added that it would "probably" face financial penalties from the scandal which has already wreaked havoc at rival British bank Barclays.

"The group continues to co-operate fully with investigations by various governmental and regulatory authorities into its submissions, communications and procedures relating to the setting of Libor and other trading rates," it said.

"The relevant authorities include, amongst others, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the US Department of Justice (Fraud Division) and the FSA, together with various other authorities in Europe and Asia.

RBS said that "a number of employees" had already been dismissed for misconduct as a result of its own investigations.

The lender acknowledged that it would probably face fines once investigations by bodies that included the European Commission and Canadian Competition Bureau were completed.

"The group expects to enter into negotiations to settle some of these investigations in the near term and believes the probable outcome is that it will incur financial penalties," it added.

"It is not possible to estimate reliably what effect the outcome of these investigations, any regulatory findings and any related developments may have on the group, including the timing and and amount of fines or settlements."

Last month, RBS left the government's toxic-asset insurance scheme in a move which was hailed by finance minister George Osborne as a step towards its return to the private sector.

RBS also floated its insurance arm Direct Line Group, raising £911 million from the sale of a 34.7-percent stake.

However, the bank did see an expected branch sale to Santander collapse in October, which it termed "disappointing". RBS has recommenced efforts to sell the 316 branches, which must be sold by 2013 under EU state aid rules.

RBS took over ABN Amro at the top of the market in 2007, just before the global financial crisis struck, when it was ravaged by a fierce credit crunch.

At close Friday, RBS shares fell 2.05 percent to 281.3 pence on London's FTSE 100 index of top companies, which was 0.11 percent higher at 5,868.55 points.

Interactive Investor analyst Rebecca O'Keeffe said the results were "better than predicted, despite the poor headline numbers" and noted that operational profit was "up significantly".