Ulster Bank’s operating losses widen

Ulster Bank has reported an operating loss of £1.040 billion sterling for 2012 compared with a loss of £984 million for the previous year.

The bank said the “challenging macroeconomic environment” across the island of Ireland had a significant impact on its financial performance for 2012.

However, it said there were some “emerging signs of improvement” in the Republic’s economy during the final quarter of 2012, most notably in the availability of institutional funding, some stabilisation of residential property prices and “modest” economic growth.

The £56 million increase in operating losses “primarily reflected” a reduction in income driven by lower interest earning asset volumes, it said.

Ulster Bank said its loan impairments stabilised last year, though “at a very high level”.

Impairments at the bank fell to £1.364 billion in 2012 from £1.384 billion in 2011.

“Retail and commercial performance is expected to be stable or improve, primarily as a result of gently declining impairments within Ulster Bank and good cost control,” it said.

“The impairment charge for 2012 was driven by a combination of new defaulting customers and deteriorating security values”.

Following the technology failure in June 2012, the bank said it had made significant efforts to help customers who were affected by extending branch hours, tripling call centre staff and providing full redress.

About 100,000 customers were adversely affected by technical issues at the bank last summer.