Royal Bank of Scotland posts first profit in a decade

The bank’s symbolic return to profit after its £45.5 billion bailout during the height of the financial crisis will be overshadowed by this last large, looming fine for crisis-era misconduct. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2018
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Royal Bank of Scotland posts first profit in a decade

LONDON: Royal Bank of Scotland Group reported its first full-year profit since 2007 on Friday, but the symbolic moment was bitter-sweet for the bank which had hoped to get a multi billion-dollar misconduct charge out of the way instead.
The bank’s £752 million profit beat a company-provided average of analyst forecasts for a £592 million loss. But many had included in their estimates hefty provisions for a settlement with the US Department of Justice for misselling by RBS of toxic mortgage backed securities.
Some analysts put the charge as high as $12 billion. RBS had hoped to settle the case in 2017. If it had, this would have resulted in the bank’s 10th consecutive annual loss. Since 2008, RBS has booked £58 billion in losses.
The bank did not provide an update on the timing of the settlement, its last large remaining legacy issue.
Chief Executive Ross McEwan said in a statement this was out of the bank’s control but the bank could nonetheless begin to think about resuming payments of dividends or buying back its shares.
“With many of our legacy issues behind us, the investment case for this bank is much clearer and the prospect of returning any excess capital to shareholders is getting closer,” he said.
But for market watchers, the bank’s symbolic return to profit after its £45.5 billion bailout during the height of the financial crisis will be overshadowed by this last large, looming fine for crisis-era misconduct.
The issue weighs on RBS’s share price and complicates the government’s plan to sell down its 71 percent stake in the bank.
RBS took £764 million of provisions in the fourth quarter for conduct issues like its missale of payment protection insurance, which came in at £175 million.
Restructuring costs were £531 million for the quarter and £1.6 billion for the entire year.
Overall, the bank continued to drive down costs — a strategic aim that has seen it shed billions of pounds from the bank in recent years.
In 2017, it beat its overall cost reduction target of £750 million, taking out £810 million overall.


US energy secretary meets Saudi counterpart after OPEC cuts

Updated 10 December 2018
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US energy secretary meets Saudi counterpart after OPEC cuts

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister held talks Monday with US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, after the Kingdom and its allies defied US pressure to cut oil production in a bid to prop up prices.
They discussed the “state of the oil market” and energy cooperation between the two countries during a meeting in eastern Dhahran city, the minister, Khalid Al-Falih, said on Twitter.
Perry tweeted that he discussed the need for “open, free, and fair markets with the Saudis.”
OPEC members and 10 other oil producing nations, including Russia, on Friday agreed to cut output by 1.2 million barrels a day from January in a bid to reverse recent falls in prices.
The decision came even as US President Donald Trump demanded that the cartel boost output in order to push prices down.
But Al-Falih shrugged off the pressure last week, saying “we don’t need permission from anyone to cut” production.
The US “is not in a position to tell us what to do,” he told reporters ahead of Friday’s OPEC meeting in Vienna.
Last week, for the first time in decades, the United States — which is not a member of OPEC — was a net exporter of crude oil and petroleum products.
It was the latest sign of how the shale boom has lifted the US standing on global petroleum markets, prompting talk of “energy dominance” by Trump.
Perry’s visit to Dhahran came as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled state oil giant Aramco’s plan for a new energy megaproject in the area known as the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK).
The energy park is expected to attract an initial investment of $1.6 billion, Aramco said.