RBS boosted by upturn in the economy

ROYAL Bank of Scotland (RBS) has narrowed its losses after a massive shake-up, it said in a trading statement today.

The bank’s statutory first-quarter net loss fell to £248m from £902m in the same period last year.

The UK taxpayer owns 84 per cent of RBS after it was bailed out in a government emergency rescue package at the end of 2008.

Meanwhile, RBS reported operating profits of £713m in the first three months of 2010, up from a £1.35bn loss for the same quarter last year.

Impairment losses were £2.67bn compared with £2.8bn.

However, profits from its global banking and markets arm more than halved to £1.47bn from £3.47bn a year ago.

Total income at the lender was down to £8.5bn from £8.9bn last year.

Restructuring and other non-operating costs pushed the bank into a pre-tax loss of £21m with a profit of £134m in the previous quarter.

Chief executive Stephen Hester said: “The year has begun for RBS broadly as we had expected. Economic recovery is benefiting our customers and thereby ourselves.

“However, we remain conscious of the economic imbalances still to be tackled globally and of the risk of specific events, such as those affecting Greece, with the associated danger of contagion.”

The bank said it had 12.8m current account customers and that its high street branches had performed well, with a million extra saving accounts added since the first quarter of 2009. Last week Lloyds Banking Group, 43 per cent-owned by the UK taxpayer, announced a surprise return to profit in the first quarter.