Clydesdale boss David Thorburn yesterday claimed the worst was behind the bank as it unveiled its first ever full-year loss amid a hike in bad debts.
The group, which also owns Yorkshire Bank, confirmed it will have cut almost 1,000 jobs before the end of March, out of a target of 1,400, as part of a massive restructuring programme unveiled in April.
Thorburn insisted the transfer of £5.6 billion of toxic property loans to the bank’s Australian parent company last month meant “losses will not recur”.
Figures released yesterday reveal a pre-tax loss of £183 million in the year to 30 September.
The bank said charges for “bad and doubtful debts” in the UK hit £631m, a rise of £335m, which it noted was due to “the prolonged economic weakness in Europe which has particularly affected the UK commercial and real estate market”.
But analysts in Australia warned there was still “a risk” that the UK bank would have to be bailed out further by its parent company, National Australia Bank (NAB).
In January, NAB injected £400m in capital into Clydesdale in an effort to shore up its balance sheet, after it had coughed up a total of £300m in 2011 and 2010.
Just three months later, NAB unveiled its dramatic restructuring of the UK businesses involving the loss of about 17 per cent of its workforce by 2015. It also said Clydesdale would shut down its commercial property lending in the UK and close 29 of its 73 UK business centres.
Thorburn admitted the bank’s losses were “certainly not good news”, but he added that the results were “disappointing but not surprising”.
He said: “You aren’t seeing a deterioration, what you are seeing is a consequence of the issues we recognised [in April]. There have been some other challenges but there has also been good progress.”
He pointed to a growth in customer deposits during the year to £25.3bn, up by £500m. Loans also increased by £600m to £33.6bn, with mortgages being a “key driver”.
Thorburn said that if the transfer of the commercial property loan book – along with 200 personnel – to NAB had happened earlier, the UK bank would have been in the black.
The bank confirmed that it had so far cut 468 roles, mainly at its operations in the south of England. Thorburn said the bulk of the coming jobs cuts would be focused outside its “heartland” of Scotland, Yorkshire and the north-east of England. He said Glasgow, where the UK bank is headquartered, had benefited from some new jobs although the bank declined to confirm how many.
Last year, NAB was reported to have discussed the possibility of selling Clydesdale to either NBNK or Sun Capital but it is understood it struggled to find a buyer. It was reported yesterday that NAB chairman Cameron Clyne had again ruled out a “fire sale” of the UK business in an effort to avoid shareholder losses.
Credit Suisse’s Sydney-based analyst Jarrod Martin wrote in a note to clients last month: “We see a risk of further UK-related provision top-ups from NAB in future periods.”
In Australia yesterday. NAB reported flat pre-tax profits of Aus$7.8bn (£5bn).