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Ulster Bank looks to speed up loan sales

Ulster Bank is believed to be speeding up the sale of its remaining Irish loans as the bank's UK parent decides to cut its losses and wind up its toxic loans unit early.

Royal Bank of Scotland is said to be planning to offload most of the toxic assets in its bad bank by the end of this year - 12 months earlier than planned.

Ulster Bank has already sold off most of its bad property-related loans made during the Celtic Tiger era, but at least some of the assets yet to be sold by RBS will be tied to Ireland. A spokeswoman for Ulster Bank, however, declined to comment.

Ulster took a write-down of more than 75pc when it sold off its Project Aran portfolio of loans tied mostly to Irish assets just before Christmas. The bank also dispensed with a €1.2bn portfolio known as Project Achill last year.

In its last quarterly results, RBS said that there were assets worth a nominal £2.9bn (€3.9bn) still on the balance sheet of RCR Ireland - the group's internal bad bank.

The vast majority of those assets will be sold off at a loss.

Because Ulster is owned by the UK's RBS, none of its loans have been transferred to Nama.

However, RBS had to be bailed out by the UK government in 2008, putting taxpayers there on the hook for Ulster Bank's losses. Ulster Bank has cost Britain an estimated €16bn so far.

UK chancellor George Osborne had considered selling or closing Ulster Bank before deciding to retain the business.

Just before Christmas it was revealed that both Ulster and RBS had taken a hit of more than €4.5bn after a huge property portfolio known as Project Aran was sold to a US firm for €1.4bn.