Visibility on provisions for past misdemeanors and an update on how Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) plans to meet its European Commission restructuring obligations will be high on investors' wish list as they digest the institution's third-quarter results on Friday.
The commentary will be scrutinized for news on looming fines that Royal Bank of Scotland has not yet provisioned for arising from legal action on both sides of the Atlantic, including a U.S. investigation into the pre-credit crisis sale of residential mortgage-backed securities and a U.K. class action lawsuit related to a pre-bailout rights issue. So-called conduct costs, which cast a pall of uncertainty over Royal Bank's second-quarter results, have taken on greater significance since September news of a potential $14 billion Department of Justice fine at rival Deutsche Bank (DB - Get Report) . (Deutsche Bank has said it has no intention of paying the full amount , though worries about the associated capital impact have infected other banking stocks, and global equities, in recent weeks). RBS has not yet started discussions with the DoJ over the RMBS probe but a report on Tuesday that the DoJ will probably push back a deal with Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse (CS - Get Report) and Barclays (BCS) until after the Presidential elections makes any swift settlement with the Edinburgh institution look unlikely.
Any hint of how Royal Bank will shed the 300 or so branches that the EC told it to sell back in 2009 as a condition of its clearance of £45.5 billion ($55.1 billion) of state bailout funding will also be watched for, after Banco Santander (SAN) , the widely assumed frontrunner-bidder, recently walked away from the assets for the second time. The branches portfolio, dubbed Williams & Glyn, has been the subject of a tortuous disposal attempt dating back about seven years. In October 2012 the complexities of integrating the branches' IT infrastructure with its own led the Spanish lender to abandon a more than two-year-old agreement worth £1.65 billion with RBS. This time round, the issue is understood to have been the price. If Royal Bank of Scotland can't sell the assets to a buyer of its own choosing by the end of 2017, the EC will force the U.K. government to appoint a trustee to get rid of the branches at a fire-sale price. The nuclear option, forcing RBS to repay the £45.5 billion of state aid it received, would decimate the lender. It is unclear how the U.K.'s Brexit, and the associated antagonism between the British government and EU institutions, will play into RBS' disposal efforts.
Indeed, commentary on Brexit, and how the U.K. bank is faring in a low interest rate environment, will be closely studied. On announcing second-quarter results on Aug. 5 CEO Ross McEwan said Brexit had made the outlook more uncertain, with new mortgage applications declining. He said it would be more challenging for RBS to reach targets for its cost-to-income ratio and for returns that it has set for 2019. For 2016 it said it may not be able to cut risk-weighted assets as fast as expected.
In terms of numbers, analysts are expecting net interest income to have fallen to £2.12 billion, according to the consensus compiled by FactSet, from £2.18 billion in the second quarter and £2.19 billion a year earlier. FactSet analysts are predicting a net loss of £998 million, compared with a loss of £1.1 billion in the second quarter and a profit of £952 million in the third quarter of last year.
In the second quarter RBS' losses unexpectedly widened following restructuring costs and hefty provisions for litigation and consumer compensation. But it warned that more provisions would come.
In that quarter, RBS' common equity Tier One capital ratio slipped to 14.5% from 14.6% as at the end of the first quarter. RBS has a targeted floor level for that ratio of 13% and analysts expect it to have slipped to 14.3% as of Sept. 30.