Ulster Bank posts loss as failing loans soar
Ulster Bank suffered losses of €414m last year as the amount of failing loans soared, its annual report has revealed.
Cormac McCarthy, Ulster Bank chief executive, said the bank was trading in an extremely difficult market.
"While the global economy is seeing signs of recovery, challenges facing the Irish economy remain," he said.
Ulster Bank's loan book showed €737m of impaired loans at the end of 2009 compared with €120m at the end of 2008.
The bank said the increase in failing loans was because of the continued deterioration in the Irish economy.
More than half of the loan losses - €395m - hit the bank in the last three months of the year.
"Over our 174-year history, Ulster Bank has overcome many challenges to become one of Ireland's leading financial institutions," Mr McCarthy said.
"We are deeply embedded in the economies in which we operate and are committed to serving the needs of our 1.9 million customers through these difficult times.
Our challenge now is to return the bank to profitability and I am confident that with the progress we have made to date, we are well placed to face the challenges ahead."
Ulster Bank last year took dramatic steps to cut its costs, with its mortgage lending business First Active closing branches and merging with the main company. A redundancy programme affecting more than 1,000 workers has almost finished.
Ulster Bank said the loan losses were driven by the property slump and mortgage impairments due to rising unemployment and lower wages.
It also said sectors driven by consumer spending were hit by a double digit decline in 2009.