Thursday 29 September 2016

PTSB needs to lift its game if it's going to stay on the pitch

Published 10/03/2016 | 02:30

Permanent TSB. Photo: Collins
Permanent TSB. Photo: Collins

Disappointing numbers published yesterday show that Permanent TSB is struggling to break back into the key mortgage market.

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Shares in Permanent TSB are 45pc below where the bank priced what was effectively a stock market listing last April.

Other bank shares have been battered over that period too but the drop is still stark - double the European norm.

The equity raising was just one part of a well worked out set of inter-linked transactions that allowed the nationalised bank to give some cash back to taxpayer surprisingly early in its recovery.

But the optimism around that April share deal has well and truly faded.

Last year the bank took a severe reputational battering when it emerged that some customers had wrongly lost homes and investment properties as a result of the bank's overcharging on some mortgages.

The tracker issue is being dealt with now, though it will take big money and a lot of time before it is fully resolved.

The bank's deeper problem, based on yesterday's figures, is that its wider recovery is in serious danger of stalling. Chief executive Jeremy Masding was able, just about, to announce the lender's first profit since the crash but even then the reported profit excluded the impact of one-offs.

But the figures show that Permanent TSB is failing to meaningfully grow its core lending business. New lending last year was just 6pc higher than in 2014, which was a low base to begin with. New mortgage lending - the core of the core for PTSB, was up even less - by just 2pc.

That's in an economy growing at 7pc and where house prices rose by 7.6pc last year.

All lenders face challnges in the Irish housing market, but Permanent TSB is falling behind. A revamped mortgage offer may help lift lending this year. If it doesn't then serious questions will have to be asked about a bank that was only saved, at huge cost to taxpayers, in order to maintain meaningful competition in the Irish market. As things stand, if we were reliant on Permo as a pillar, the lending market would topple over.

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