Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 17:24 UK

RBS has 691m loss in first half

Sign outside RBS building

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has posted a pre-tax loss of 691m during the first six months of 2008, the second-biggest loss in UK banking history.

RBS, which owns NatWest bank, said it was hit by 5.9bn of write-downs after the credit crunch cut the value of many of its mortgages and assets.

The bank made a profit of 5bn during the same period last year.

RBS boss Fred Goodwin warned that a "deteriorating economic outlook" would compound problems in financial markets.

A chastening experience
RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin on having to unveil the results

RBS had been expected to post a much larger loss with some analysts predicting the UK's second-biggest bank could see a loss of between 1.2bn and 1.7bn.

The company's shares added 2.7% to 239.25 pence in London.

Sir Fred said the losses had been a "chastening experience", and that reporting a shortfall of 691m was something he and his colleagues "regret very much".

At a press conference he said that the write-downs created, "a very unsatisfactory situation, made more so by the shadow it casts over the good performances across a wide range of our businesses".

Credit crunched

Much of RBS's write-down total stems from investments at Dutch bank ABN Amro, bought by RBS and partners last year.

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RBS, along with other UK and global banks, has suffered from a drop in the value of risky assets, particularly those linked to US sub-prime mortgages. Sub-prime borrowers are those with poor or non-existent credit histories, and in recent months the number of defaults has jumped.

The BBC's business editor Robert Peston said that RBS's undoing was that it had piled into toxic securities linked to the dire US sub-prime housing market - and its exposure to the poison was increased through the ABN takeover.

As a result, RBS's so-called credit market write-downs were 5.1bn - an almost "incomprehensibly" big figure.

Our correspondent said that this was particularly galling for the bank as the rest of its business was not doing too badly.

Cash boost

As a result of the problems in the US and other global financial markets, many lenders have had to find ways of boosting their cash reserves, with many deciding to sell shares to existing investors via a right issue.

TOP WRITE-DOWNS
Billions of dollars
Citigroup 46.40
Merrill Lynch 36.80
UBS 36.70
AIG 20.23
HSBC 18.70
RBS 16.50
IKB 14.73
Bank of America 14.60
Morgan Stanley 11.70
Deutsche Bank 11.40
Ambac 9.22
Barclays 9.20
Wachovia 8.90
MBIA 8.41
Credit Suisse 8.13
Wasington Mutual 8.10
HBOS 7.50
Source: Reuters

RBS sold shares worth 12bn in a rights issue that was strongly supported by shareholders, who agreed to buy some 95% of the stock on offer.

The rights issue was the biggest in UK corporate history, and the firm said investors would take up 5.8bn new shares at a value of 200 pence each.

Following the rights issues, RBS said that its core tier 1 capital ratio, a key measure of cash and asset levels, was now 5.7%.

Referring to the current economic difficulties, Sir Fred said the bank had "moved decisively" and had drawn heavily on its shareholders for financial support.

"We recognise that we must now deliver a level of performance that meets their expectations for the company and restores value to our shares. We are determined to do so, and this is our focus," Sir Fred added.

'Wrong deal'

Our business editor said that the chief executive's comments were as close as you will ever hear to a chief executive saying that he is living on borrowed time.

Banker magazine editor Brian Caplan talks to the BBC about RBS's figures

He continued that Sir Fred was under unambiguous instruction from RBS's owners and its non-executives to fix the business, or "he would be out of the door quicker than it takes to say 'ABN was the wrong deal, at the wrong price, at the wrong time'".

Other lenders which have also appealed to investors for extra cash including HBOS, and Bradford & Bingley.

RBS shares have more than halved in value over the past year - including a 25% slump since the rights issue was announced in April.


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