Posted on Tuesday 29 July 2014 by Ulster Business

Banking sector pulls itself back into the black

After a difficult few years, Northern Ireland’s banks are showing signs of improvement

Confirmation the banking sector in Northern Ireland looks to be well on the road to recovery after Ulster Bank joined Danske Bank in reporting profits for the first half of the year.

It was in the black to the tune of £55m for the six months to the end of June, a figure which is a huge improvement on the £381m it lost during the same period last year.

Parent company RBS surprised the stock market with the early release of the results last week, a move triggered by the fact they were more positive than the bank had previously hinted.

A sharp drop in impairments – money set aside to protect against bad debt, mostly property – was behind the slide back into profit, falling to £57m from £503m.

A similar reduction in bad debt had also helped Danske Bank to record profits of £45m for the first half of the year, although it has been notching up profits for nearly a year now.

“We can confidently say Northern Ireland continues to experience economic growth,” chief executive Gerry Mallon said. “It is clear that businesses are starting to invest with confidence and look towards the future, while Danske Bank’s own survey forecasts that overall local economic growth should reach 2.4% in 2014 and 2015.”

Danske’s results relate solely to its Northern Ireland business while Ulster Bank reports profits across the island of Ireland.

Meanwhile, one of the other major banks operating in Northern Ireland Bank of Ireland is due to release its first half results on Friday.

Emmet Gaffney, an analyst at Investec, said he expected it to report profits of €271m for the first half of the year

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