RBS in £968m loss amid Coutts, Panama probes

RBS chief executive Ross McEwan

Royal Bank of Scotland on Friday reported an operating profit of £421 million for the first quarter of 2016 compared with £37 million in the same period of 2015.

However, it reported an attributable loss of £968 million when a final dividend of £1.19 billion paid to the UK government — which ends the government’s claims — was counted.

The £968 million was more than double the attributable loss of £459 million made in the same period of 2015.

RBS shares were down 5.6% in afternoon trading.

The bank is still 73% owned by the UK government following its £45.5 billion bail out during the 2008 financial crisis.

RBS indicated on Friday that it could now take longer than it hoped to resume paying dividends to shareholders.

“I would continue to caution on the timing for a return to capital distributions,” said RBS chief financial officer Ewen Stevenson on a conference call.

“We’ll get there as quickly as we can address issues that we need to address.”

RBS had already told investors on Thursday “there is a significant risk” that it will miss the December 31, 2017 deadline set by European regulators for it to sell its Williams & Glyn branch network — a condition of its bail out.

Quarterly total income fell to £3.06 billion from £3.51 billion in first quarter 2015.

* RBS also said the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has opened enforcement proceedings against Coutts & Co Ltd, a member of the RBS Group, incorporated in Switzerland, “with regard to certain client accounts held with Coutts.”

RBS said Coutts was also cooperating with authorities in other jurisdictions “in relation to connected accounts.”

** RBS said further that “in common with other banks” it received a letter from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on 4 April 2016 requesting information about any relationship RBS has with the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca or any individuals named in the recent “Panama Papers” media coverage. 

“RBS has responded to the FCA setting out details of the limited services provided to Mossack Fonseca and its clients and is continuing its internal review, as well as monitoring all new information published,” said RBS.