Poor results deepen NatWest gloom

The pressure on NatWest's embattled management team moved up another notch yesterday after the banking group published a weak set of annual results.

Group profits fell by 10 per cent, and the bank admitted to difficulties in several of its non-core businesses, in particular NatWest Markets, the investment banking business, and Coutts, the Queen's bankers.

The only cheer for NatWest shareholders was the prospect of a share buy- back. The bank announced it intend to return capital to shareholders, but declined to detail the timing and the size.

Lord Alexander, the bank's chairman, said: "1997 was a difficult year, and our overall results were poor". Derek Wanless, chief executive, called the group's figures "disappointing". He added: "NatWest Markets had a dreadful year last year. It pulled down the performance of the whole of the group".

Before tax, NatWest Markets lost pounds 706m in the year to December, a fall of pounds 804m. Profits at Coutts, the private banking group, fell by 72 per cent after bad debt provisions rose by more than 700 per cent to pounds 76m. Mr Wanless said the provisions related to "a small number of isolated lending problems" in the US, but declined to elaborate further on the precise nature of the difficulties.

The name NatWest Markets is to disappear once the group has completed the sale of its equities business later this year. NatWest Markets' debt business will be rebranded Greenwich NatWest and its corporate advisory business is also to be renamed.

Mr Wanless poured cold water on recent industry rumours the bank could merge with Barclays, one of its main rivals, after an initial approach from Martin Taylor, Barclays' chief executive, last summer. Mr Wanless said the competition authorities would be unlikely to approve such a move and the process of merger would damage both banks' franchises. Mr Wanless said he was more receptive, however, to a link-up with a company in the insurance or mortgage industry.

Analysts reacted unenthusiastically both to the results and to Mr Wanless's moves to quash merger speculation. NatWest shares finished the day at 1104p, down 21p.

Investment column, page 22

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Adviser - OTE £30,000

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high