RBS forms 'bad bank' to aid private-sector return

1st November 2013, Comments 0 comments

Royal Bank of Scotland will create an internal 'bad bank' to run down £38 billion of high-risk assets as the government looks to return the state-rescued lender to the private sector.

RBS hopes to remove all of the toxic assets, equivalent to $61 billion or 45 billion euros, from its balance sheet over the next three years, the bank said in a statement as it announced also a third-quarter net loss of £828 million.

The lender, currently 81-percent-owned by the British government after the world's biggest bank bailout following the 2008 financial crisis, said it had decided against creating an external 'bad bank' owing to the risk and expense involved.

RBS, whose shares fell sharply on Friday, said that it would also speed up the sale of Citizens, its US banking subsidiary.

"RBS announces management actions to accelerate the building of its capital strength and to enhance its strategic focus on its core UK businesses," the bank's statement said.

"The measures will include the creation of an internal 'bad bank' to manage the run-down of high risk assets projected to be £38 billion by the end of 2013."

RBS chief executive Ross McEwan added: "Our goal is to remove between 55 percent and 70 percent of these assets over the next two years.

"While there is inevitable uncertainty associated with running down such assets, we have a clear aspiration to remove all these assets from the balance sheet in three years," he said.

RBS had in August promoted New Zealander McEwan to the post of chief executive. The former head of retail at the bank has replaced Stephen Hester, who surprised markets in June by announcing that he would leave the bank before the end of 2013.

Hester's departure, reportedly at the request of Britain's coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron, has sparked questions about the strategy for the state-rescued bank.

Analysts believe that British finance minister George Osborne wanted a new face to help guide Royal Bank of Scotland's return to private ownership.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne said in a statement on Friday: "Today RBS sets out a new direction... that will lead it to being a boost to the British economy instead of a burden."

He added: "Under this new direction RBS will deal decisively with the problems of the past by separating out the good from the bad, and putting the bad loans in a bad bank. Our independent analysis shows that the bad bank should be an internal one, funded by RBS, rather than an external one funded by the taxpayer."

Osborne, a member of the Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party that heads a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, also said that the bank was unlikely to be sold back to the private sector before Britain's next general election in 2015.

RBS shares tumble

Shares in RBS slumped 7.5 percent on Friday to end at 340 pence on London's benchmark FTSE 100 index, which closed flat.

Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, said an internal 'bad bank' still posed a risk to the overall health of the lender.

"It seems as if RBS and the UK government have not been able to completely quantify the toxic assets on the balance sheet which is perhaps why the bad bank wasn't spun off separately," he added.

RBS meanwhile announced earlier in the week that it was reviewing its foreign exchange trading practices after being drawn into a worldwide probe along with other major banks into the possible manipulation of forex deals.

A source said on Friday that RBS had suspended two of its traders over the affair.

McEwan added that the bank would "come down very severely" on anyone found to have broken trading rules.

© 2013 AFP

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