NAB caution dents hopes of cash return for its investors

NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK (NAB), which owns Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks, dampened hopes that the nation&rsquo;s lenders will return surplus capital to investors anytime soon yesterday.<br /><br />It said it needed a cash buffer to protect it against economic headwinds and bad debt charges.<br /><br />The cautious outlook from Australia&rsquo;s largest bank showed it will be a while before the trickle down effects of a recovering economy are felt. <br /><br />The comments overshadowed NAB&rsquo;s better-than-expected second-half cash profit, which rose to A$1.81bn (&pound;980m) for the six months to end-September from A$1.68bn a year earlier.<br /><br />The bank gave no earnings guidance for the current fiscal year, but said it would focus on cutting costs.<br /><br />NAB has spent over A$1bn in the past year to beef up its wealth management, insurance and mortgage businesses. <br /><br />The group&rsquo;s chief executive Cameron Clyne said the bank continues to look at acquisition opportunities.<br /><br />Bad-debt charges at NAB, which makes the bulk of its income from the home market, rose 14 per cent to A$2bn for the second half from A$1.76bn a year earlier.