Paying a dividend: Royal Bank of Scotland's Irish subsidiary does what the UK group is still struggling to do

Oliver Gill
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Ross McEwan New Chief Executive of Royal Bank of Scotland
Some welcome "noise": RBS boss Ross McEwan probably felt he was due some good news after a tricky 2016 (Source: Getty)

Beleaguered lender Royal Bank of Scotland might not be able to make any money at a group level, but its Irish operations is raking in profits.

In fact, Ulster Bank Ireland DAC (aka Ulster Bank) has made so much money, it said today it will pay a mammoth €1.5bn (£1.1bn) dividend to its loss-making UK parent. It is the first dividend paid by the Republic of Ireland subsidiary since 2008.

Read more: Five problems facing RBS chief exec Ross McEwan

The Irish lender said even though it was writing such a large cheque to Edinburgh, it will have a "strong capital position following payment of the dividend, significantly above regulatory capital minimums".

As could be expected, Ulster Bank's chief exec Garry Mallon was ecstatic at the news.

Today’s announcement signals a very important milestone for Ulster Bank and is evidence of our strengthening position as we work to fulfil our potential for our people, our customers and our parent company.

Ulster Bank remains very well capitalised with a strong balance sheet and is well-positioned to continue to support customers’ ambitions through our excellent products and service.

While RBS in Edinburgh will no doubt be pleased to accept the dividend, it may be left scratching its head as to how its Irish subsidiary has been so successful, while at group level RBS has bounced from calamity to calamity ever since it was bailed-out by the UK government during the 2008 financial crisis.

Read more: RBS shares have tumbled after another loss-making quarter

In October, the group revealed third quarter losses of nearly half a billion pounds. RBS also indicated it, along with the UK government, is likely to be in hot water with the European Commission.

The bank said it is unlikely to be able to offload its troublesome Williams & Glyn subsidiary by the end of 2017 – this was one condition of the EC sign-off for RBS' state capital injection.

Today's Irish dividend will need formal approval by the board of Ulster Bank and will also need the green light from Irish financial regulators.

Shares in RBS were 0.3 per cent higher, at 203.9p, in mid-morning trading.

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