Monday 19 February 2018

BoI halves first half-year losses to e723m


Laura Noonan

the newly-recapitalised Bank of Ireland (BoI) says it has almost halved losses in the first six months of the year.

Yesterday the bank insisted its business would continue to improve despite the challenges of the latest financial crisis and "very muted" demand for loans.

BoI chief Richie Boucher gave his upbeat account of the bank's prospects in a briefing with journalists yesterday, after the bank reported first half losses of €723m.

In a defiant results presentation, BoI also said that:

•Mr Boucher is "focusing on his job" and not preoccupied with the outcome of the Central Bank's review of bank bosses who were in senior roles before their institutions got bailed out.

•The bank believes it can still "frontload" the sale of some billions of international assets despite the US and eurozone debt crises.

•The bank's key 'net interest margin' has bottomed out and will improve.

•Loan losses are "absolutely going in the right direction".

The comments come just weeks after BoI sealed a €5.2bn recapitalisation that will see five strategic investors take about 35pc of the bank's stock, bringing the Government's stake down to 15pc.

The new investors are buying into a bank that saw its operating profit collapse from €479m in the first half of 2010 to €163m in the same period this year.

BoI bosses stressed that this year's result included two items the bank ultimately believes will be reversed -- a €50m hit for taking its Irish Government bonds to market and a €60m hit from fair value movements in currency swaps.

This year's figures also included a €14m rise in BoI's fees for the government guarantee scheme, which came in at €195m for the period -- the bank plans to "progressively" ease off the scheme as markets allow.

The latest losses were triggered by almost €842m of loan losses, lower than the €1.1bn a year earlier but still problematically high. "Loan losses are absolutely going in the right direction," BoI's finance chief John O'Donovan said.

On the latest financial crisis that's sweeping through markets in the US and Europe, Mr Boucher said he did not expect BoI's sale of foreign assets to be knocked off course.

"We are at an advanced stage in disposals," Mr Boucher said, adding that the international split of the assets earmarked for sale meant the bank still expected to be able to "frontload" its deleveraging process.

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