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November 7, 2009

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RBS narrows operating losses

ROYAL Bank of Scotland more than halved its operating losses to 1.5 billion pounds (US$2.5 billion) in the third quarter as impairments fell, but less favorable trading battered investment banking profits.

Part-nationalized RBS said impairment losses totalled 3.3 billion pounds, down 30 percent from 4.7 billion pounds in the second quarter and were showing signs of levelling off.

But the bank cautioned bad loans were expected to "remain at elevated levels for the next few quarters."

RBS said operating profit for its global banking and markets business shrunk to 375 million pounds in the latest quarter, from 1.1 billion pounds in the second quarter, as "exceptionally strong conditions" seen in the first and second quarters eased.

Its UK Corporate profit climbed to more than four times its level at the second quarter, but the bank saw worsening losses at its Ulster Bank and US retail and commercial business as impairments rose and operating conditions remained tough.

"I have repeatedly said this is a marathon, not a sprint, and so it is proving," Chief Executive Stephen Hester said of the banks' performance over the past three months.

RBS had warned in August that investors should not expect a "miracle cure" for the battered bank, where investment banking profits, which have lifted the bottom line for most of its rivals, have failed to offset the impact of bad debts.

Earlier this week RBS secured a further 25.5-billion-pound capital injection from the government as part of a deal that will make the terms of a government-sponsored insurance scheme for bad debts more flexible, but will also see dramatic disposals and increase the state's stake to more than 84 percent.

Both RBS and bailed-out rival Lloyds Banking Group agreed to cut back their business to meet EU state aid rules, but RBS was particularly badly hit, forced to sell chunks of its retail bank, its RBS Insurance arm and to shrink its investment bank. Both banks also agreed to drastic bonus caps.


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