Bank of Scotland owner Lloyds sees profits slide 95% as Covid-19 takes toll

Bank of Scotland owner Lloyds Banking Group has suffered a profit wipe-out after taking a major hit from worsening economic conditions in the first three months of the year.

Bank of Scotland owner Lloyds Banking Group saw its pre-tax profits almost wiped out after taking a major hit from worsening economic conditions in the first three months of the year.

The banking giant, which also owns Scottish Widows, said a massive £1.4 billion impairment charge had left profits in the doldrums.

At the pre-tax level, those profits plunged 95 per cent to £74 million, down from more than £1.6bn in the same three months of last year.

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Chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said: “The coronavirus pandemic presents an unprecedented social and economic challenge which is having a significant impact on people and businesses in the UK and around the world.

“The economic outlook is clearly challenging, with the longer-term outcome dependent on the severity and length of the pandemic and the mitigating impact of government and other measures in the UK and across the world.”

Net income came in at just under £4bn, down from £4.4bn in the same period last year. Profit after tax fell 60 per cent to £480m.

The bank said it had lent around £410m to some 3,000 small businesses as part of the UK government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). It has also given payment holidays to 83,000 motor finance customers, 175,000 customers who have taken out personal loans, and 219,000 credit card holders.

More than 400,000 mortgage-holders have been granted a payment holiday.

The bank withdrew its financial guidance for investors, saying the longer-term impact of Covid-19 is not yet clear.

Both senior staff and executives will not be given a bonus this year, the bank told investors, who already had their dividends slashed last month.

Horta-Osorio added: “I would like to pay tribute to the exemplary dedication being shown by all our colleagues across the group providing vital banking services to those in need, but also in going above and beyond in countless and often unseen ways to support the most vulnerable.”

John Moore, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said: “Of the major banks, Lloyds is most vulnerable to a significant UK downturn, following moves to simplify its business over the past decade.

“Barclays’ UK results earlier in the week suggested it would be tough for Lloyds, but there is resilience in [these] numbers.

“While the bank is in a strong financial position in the immediate term, analysts will keep a close eye on the performance and quality of its loan book amid pressure to lend over the next year and beyond.”

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, noted: “Often seen as a barometer of the UK economy, this update from Lloyds underscores the scale of the challenges ahead. At a headline level, the impairment provision of £1.4bn is up from a previous figure of £275m, and has all but obliterated first-quarter profit.

“Lloyds Banking has long been regarded as a tightly-run ship and there are elements for cautious optimism. Without doubt, the banks face this adversity from a stronger position having learned some uncomfortable lessons from the previous financial crisis of over a decade ago.”

Lloyds’ figures come ahead of a first-quarter trading update from rival Royal Bank of Scotland, which is due to be released on Friday.

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