Friday 19 February 2021 7:16 am

NatWest tumbles to £351m loss in 2020 as bank shuts door on Irish market

NatWest has today announced that it will pull out of its operations in the Republic of Ireland after reporting a £351m annual loss.

The bank intends to withdraw from its Ulster Bank but operations will not be affected in Northern Ireland.

It will exit the country following a strategic review and send $4.84bn worth of loans to Allied Irish Bank.

Ulster Bank has served customers in Ireland for more than 160 years and is the country’s third largest lender.

It has a €20bn loan book and around 2,800 staff.

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NatWest reported a pre-tax loss of £351m for the year, beating analyst forecasts of a £418m hit.

Despite the blow, the bank said it would pay out a dividend of 3p per share, after the Bank of England gave lenders the green light to resume investor pay-outs.

It continued to grow in key areas such as mortgages and commercial lending, with one of the highest capital ratios amongst its UK and European peers.

The bank pledged to increase shareholder returns in future years by distributing at least £800m per year from 2022 up until 2023.

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The move to sell Ulster Bank is the latest intervention by CEO Alison Rose to cut costs and simplify the lender.

Rose, who joined NatWest in 2019, has already cut back on its market division and axed digital venture Bó just months after its launch.

Commenting on the results, Rose said: “We made strong progress in executing the strategy we set out in February 2020 as we build a relationship bank for a digital world – a bank that will meet the rapidly evolving needs of our customers at different stages of their lives through an ever-increasing focus on digital and transformation.

“In turn, this will drive sustainable, long-term returns to our shareholders.”