State-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland returns to profit

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Royal Bank of Scotland, rescued by the British taxpayer at the height of the financial crisis, scraped into profit during the first half of 2010, its latest earnings statement showed on Friday.

RBS said it made a net profit of nine million pounds (11 million euros, 14 million dollars) in the six months to the end of June compared to a loss after tax of 1.042 billion pounds in the first half of 2009.

The bank, which is 83-percent owned by the taxpayer, edged into profit as write-offs from bad loans narrowed sharply.

Chief executive Stephen Hester said the turnaround of RBS was on track, but added: "The rebuilding of RBS is a marathon not a sprint."

Net profits stood at 257 million pounds in the second quarter compared with a loss of 248 million pounds in the first three months of 2010.

"RBS second quarter results show that the bank remains on track to meet the far-reaching goals of our five year restructuring plan which commenced last year," Hester said in the earnings statement.

"We are making good progress with disposals and overall business restructuring. Our customer base is solid and I believe that the future potential of RBS for all its constituencies becomes increasingly visible."

Royal Bank of Scotland has slashed 22,600 jobs worldwide since finding itself ravaged by the credit crunch and the takeover of Dutch giant ABN Amro at the top of the market in 2007.

Earlier this week it was announced that RBS had agreed to sell 318 of its British branches to Spain's biggest bank Santander in a deal worth 1.65 billion pounds.

"The task of restructuring and improving RBS's risk profile continues to go well," Hester said on Friday.

"A central tenet of our five year plan is to make the bank safer for all its stakeholders. We continue to meet or exceed our targets for reducing non-core assets, strengthening liquidity and funding profile," he added.

The European Commission had ordered RBS to sell assets in return for receiving state aid.

Earnings from RBS meanwhile cap a week of sharply improving results from Britain's main banks. HSBC was the star performer, announcing that net profits at the Asia-focused lender had more than doubled to 6.76 billion dollars in the first half after it slashed US bad debt and raised earnings in emerging markets.

Barclays said its first-half net profit rose almost a third to 2.4 billion pounds thanks to a strong performance at its investment banking unit. And another state-rescued lender, Lloyds Banking Group, said it too had bounced back into profit in the first six months of 2010.

© 2010 AFP

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