Taxpayer-owned RBS banks first profit since 2015

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Royal Bank of Scotland has swung back into the black, reporting its first quarterly profit since 2015.

The taxpayer-owned lender booked a £259 million profit in the first three months of the year, compared with a £968 million loss in the same quarter last year.

It is the first time since the third quarter of 2015 that RBS, which is 72% owned by the Government, has turned a quarterly profit.

The numbers will come as welcome relief to chief executive Ross McEwan, who has presided over a string of recent poor results, which tally up to a staggering £58 billion of losses since RBS was bailed out by the Government at the height of the financial crisis.

He said: "These results reflect very much what we talked about at full year.

"This bank has a very strong core with great potential, and we believe that, by going further on cost reduction and faster on digital transformation, we will deliver a simpler, safer and even more customer-focused bank, with a compelling investment case."

The core bank's adjusted operating profit also rose in the quarter, from £303 million to £1.3 billion.

Friday's figures also show that RBS booked £577 million in restructuring costs.

In February, RBS reported a £7 billion annual loss and Mr McEwan ordered a £2 billion four-year cost-cutting drive, expected to result in significant job losses and branch closures.

To this end, the bank took £278 million in costs out of the business in the period.

Last week, Chancellor Philip Hammond made the stark admission that the Government is prepared to sell its stake at a loss to the public purse.

The Government bought its 72% stake in the bank for £45 billion in 2008, at £5.02 a share, as part of a bailout at the height of the financial crisis.

But shares in the troubled lender are now trading at around half that price.

It is understood that only once RBS's legacy issues - such as fines in the US and state aid obligations - are dealt with, will the Government begin selling down the taxpayers' stake.