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July 28, 2017, 6:22 a.m.
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Bank of Ireland set aside €70 million for a likely return to shareholder dividend payments early next year as the bank reported that its bad loans ratio had now fallen to below 7 per cent of customer lending.
Impaired loans fell by €800 million to €5.4 billion over the course of the six months as the economy improves and the bank continues to restructure troubled loans. The bank’s impaired loans ratio peaked at €16.9 billion in 2013, when they made up 18 per cent of its portfolio.
The State’s largest lender by assets reported that underlying profit for first half came to €480 million, helped as its net interest margin, the difference between the average rate at which it funds itself and lends to customers, rose by 0.05 percentage points year-on-year to 2.32 per cent.
“We expect dividends to re-commence at a modest level in the first half of 2018, in respect of financial year 2017,” said chief executive Richie Boucher, who’s set to retire in October after leading the group since 2009. “The transformation of our business, enabled by our technology investments, to efficiently and sustainably align with the way our customers want to engage with us, continues to make progress.”
The Dublin-based bank decided in February to hold off making shareholder payments for a further 12 months, given volatility in the bank’s pension scheme, where the deficit doubled in the first nine months of the year to €1.45 billion before shrinking to €450 million in the final three months of the year.
Customer loans at the end of June stood at €76.9 billion, with the bank’s “core loan books” increasing by €500 million.
Mr Boucher is set to be succeeded on October 22nd by HSBC executive Francesca McDonagh.