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Home debts up

Almost 20pc of Ulster Bank's residential mortgage customers are in negative equity, the figure having doubled in the space of 12 months as house prices tumbled.

Some 3pc of the bank's core mortgage book is now at least three months in arrears, in line with recent sector data, but this is double the level seen at the end of 2008.

Chief executive Cormac McCarthy said the group was reluctant to restructure home loans in an effort to keep them out of the pile of non-performing loans and defer problems.