Profit halves as RBS takes £800m hit in coronavirus quarter

Profit halved at the Royal Bank of Scotland during a troubled first three months of the year for the banking industry as coronavirus shut down large parts of the global economy.

The bank said that operating profit before tax reached £519 million, ahead of the £415 million that analysts had expected.

The 49% drop from the same period last year came after the business took a net impairment loss of £802 million. RBS said that £628 million of this was down to the uncertain economic outlook.

Analysts had expected impairments of around £515 million.

“Every person, family and business has been affected by the current situation and normal business activity has been severely impacted, said chief executive Alison Rose.

“We are putting our purpose into action and I am proud of how we have responded, providing our customers, communities and colleagues with the support they need.”

RBS, which also owns NatWest, has managed to keep nine in 10 branches open, even while sending about 60,000 members of staff to work from home.

The bank has approved more than 8,000 loans, worth £1.5 billion, to small firms under the Government’s coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, designed to help companies through the crisis.

Alison Rose
Alison Rose said normal business has been severely impacted (Nick Ansell/PA)

In the run-up to the crisis, many of its business customers were being prudent, setting aside more cash than usual.

Business deposits increased by around £8.9 billion, compared to the last quarter of 2019, RBS said.

The bank said it would be “inappropriate” to provide the markets with a medium-term outlook as the economy faces “unprecedented levels of uncertainty”.

Ms Rose added: “Although the outlook remains extremely uncertain, we approach the crisis from a position of strength, with confidence in our balance sheet and focus on our strategic priorities.”

The results come a month after RBS announced it would not pay out a dividend to shareholders, after a request from the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority to all the banks.

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