The Deal: RBS Confirms Creation of Internal 'Bad Bank'

LONDON (The Deal) -- Royal Bank of Scotland's (RBS) newly installed CEO Ross McEwan Friday, Nov. 1, put his own -- albeit government-brokered -- mark on the institution's long-running restructuring, accelerating the divestment of RBS Citizens Financial Group, putting toxic assets into an internal "bad bank" and announcing a new review to shave costs.

McEwan announced the reorganization at the 81% state-owned bank after the U.K. government decided following a review led by Rothschild and BlackRock that hiving off Royal Bank of Scotland's risky assets into an external "bad bank" wasn't worth the effort or the risk.

McEwan's overhaul comes almost five years after predecessor Stephen Hester began a comprehensive revamp of the institution, which received 45.5 billion pounds ($72.9 billion) of state rescue funding in the fall of 2008. Hester was ousted as CEO earlier this year amid political and regulatory pressure for an even more far-reaching reorganization and amid continued criticism Royal Bank wasn't lending enough to small businesses.

"We now have a shared vision for the bank that includes the board, our principal prudential regulator and the U.K. Government," said McEwan in a statement. "I believe this is beneficial for all of our shareholders. The actions we are announcing today, when complete, will create a less complex, more effective customer business capable of delivering returns that will be attractive to prospective shareholders. They will create a bank that can reward the faith of U.K. taxpayers and all our investors."

McEwan, who took the helm in September, said Royal Bank will fully divest Providence, R.I.-based Citizens by the end of 2016 and hold an IPO for the business next year, instead of 2015, as originally planned.

The internal "bad bank" will include 38 billion pounds of high-risk assets, among them bad loans from the lender's struggling Ulster Bank unit. Royal Bank wants to run down or sell between 55% and 70% of the assets over the next two years.

The reorganization will lead to between 4 billion pounds and 4.5 billion pounds in write-downs in the fourth quarter and reduce Royal Bank's core Tier One capital ratio by 10 basis points in the short term, Royal Bank said.

But McEwan also announced a new review, taking in the bank's cost base, its "customer-facing" businesses, its IT operations and its organizational and "decision-making structures." The bank will announce the outcome of that review in February.

Royal Bank announced the changes as it posted a 634 million pounds operating loss in the third quarter, less than half the loss of a year earlier.

Its return on equity from its core business was 7.7%.

The Edinburgh lender acknowledged that the U.K. economic recovery is "gaining traction" but said it expects "a continued muted performance from our core businesses in the short term, due primarily to the continued effects of low interest rates, excess liquidity, a smaller balance sheet, and lower securities gains from our liquidity portfolio."

-- Written by Laura Board

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