Northern Ireland

Ulster Bank makes first annual profit since 2008

Ulster Bank Image copyright PA
Image caption Ulster is the largest bank in Northern Ireland and the third largest in the Republic of Ireland

Ulster Bank has made an annual profit for the first time since 2008.

The bank, which operates across the island of Ireland, made just over £600m in 2014. The compares to a loss of £1.6bn in 2013.

Ulster is the largest bank in Northern Ireland and the third largest in the Republic of Ireland.

Its 2014 performance was helped by an improving economy and the movement of bad loans into an internal 'bad bank.'

More than half of the profit reflects so-called write backs, meaning that money which had been set aside to cover bad loans can now be released.

Ulster Bank's chief executive Jim Brown said the annual profits were a "clear signal" that the bank's strategy was working and "evidence of sustained progress across all areas of the bank".

"This performance was driven by the underlying strength of the core Ulster Bank franchise and increased lending to customers across personal and business coupled with our proactive debt management and rising asset prices in a recovering economy," he said.

"In 2015 we will continue to focus on the needs of our customers and we have stated our ambition to become Ireland's number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy."

The bank is owned by the RBS Group.

RBS, which is still state-owned, has reported £3.5bn loss for 2014, down from £9bn loss the previous year.

The results were hit by a £4bn write down on the sale of its US business Citizens.

The bank's chief executive Ross McEwan confirmed he would not receive a bonus this year.

RBS said it had reduced costs by some £1.1bn and will cut another £800m this year.

It is cutting back its corporate and institutional banking network from 38 countries at the end of last year to 13, which will mainly be in the UK and western Europe.

Mr McEwan said: "What's really important is that given the success of the last year we want to go further and faster in reforming this bank."

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