Bristol & West held back to 41m pounds

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The Independent Online
BRISTOL & West Building Society has reported only a modest improvement in pre-tax profits despite an pounds 11m fall in its bad debt charge.

John Burke said he had exercised a new chief executive's prerogative to make one-off provisions against the cost of selling off part of its estate agency chain and some shop- fitting. 'There are a whole series of other bits and pieces in there,' he said.

The provisions held Bristol & West to pre-tax profits of pounds 41.3m for 1993, up from pounds 39.1m in 1992.

However, the society has restated its 1992 results in accordance with the accounting standard FRS3 to show a pounds 14m profit. The lower figure strips out about pounds 17m of profit that it took on a sale-and-leaseback of some of its branches.

John Wriglesworth, housing market analyst at UBS, said the building society was at last turning the corner after a troubled 1992. 'They're off the critical list although still in convalescence.' He said he had a lot of confidence in the new management.

The results include a pay-off to Tony FitzSimons, whom Mr Burke replaced as chief executive last September. Mr Burke said the details of the payment must await publication of the report and accounts.

Bad debts fell nearly 15 per cent to pounds 63.3m, and Bristol & West expects a further significant fall this year. Residential mortgage arrears tumbled 45 per cent to pounds 71m.

The scale of the society's arrears and bad debts reflects its rapid expansion in the late 1980s.

Bristol & West has written down the value of its head office, branches and other freehold and long-leasehold property by pounds 38.8m. However, its capital ratios have strengthened, helped by a pounds 75m subordinated debt issue. The free capital ratio rose from 4.2 to 5.4 per cent.

Gross mortgage lending rose by 11.6 per cent to pounds 1.1bn. The society's offshore facility helped to bring in net savings of pounds 229.7m, a 127 per cent rise on 1992. This enabled it to reduce reliance on wholesale funding from 27.8 to 25.1 per cent.

Bristol & West said it was confident it had no need to make any provision to pay compensation to customers involved in the more than 100 personal pension tranfers it has arranged.