“These results have been driven by good operating performances across the Group, underpinned by a robust loan book and a strong capital position. Defaults remain low and, given the improved outlook, we have released a further £0.6 billion of impairment provisions in the quarter. While we see the potential for a more rapid recovery, we will continue to take an appropriate and conservative approach as the government schemes wind down and the economy reopens.
As a result of our strong and resilient performance, coupled with our capital strength and cautiously optimistic outlook, we are announcing an interim dividend of 3p per share and share buy-back of up to £750 million. We are also increasing our minimum annual distribution to shareholders to £1.0 billion for the next three years. Taken together, this means our total distributions for 2021 will be a minimum of £2.9 billion.
We continue to make progress against our strategic targets and to accelerate our digital transformation as we build a bank that is relevant to our customers in every region of the UK and supports them at every stage of their lives. As the UK’s leading business bank, we are determined to remove barriers to entry and help the economy build back better. Against the background of an ongoing pandemic, our commitment to helping people, families and businesses to rebuild and thrive has never been more important. Because if they thrive, so will we.”
Financial performance in a challenging environment
H1 2021 operating profit before tax of £2,505 million compared with an operating loss before tax of £770 million in H1 2020. H1 2021 attributable profit of £1,842 million.
Income across the UK and RBSI retail and commercial businesses, excluding notable items, decreased by £160 million, or 3.3%, compared with H1 2020 reflecting the lower yield curve and subdued transactional business activity, partially offset by balance sheet growth. NatWest Markets (NWM) income, excluding asset disposals/strategic risk reduction and OCA, decreased by £492 million, or 59.6%, compared with H1 2020 reflecting the exceptional level of market activity generated by the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the prior period, together with weak performance in the Fixed Income business in the current period.
Bank net interest margin (NIM) of 1.61% decreased by 3 basis points compared with Q1 2021 principally reflecting increased levels of liquidity.
Other expenses, excluding operating lease depreciation (OLD) and Ulster Bank RoI direct costs, were £185 million, or 5.9% lower than H1 2020.
A net impairment release of £707 million in the first half of 2021 mainly reflects releases in non-default portfolios as a result of the improved economic outlook.
Robust balance sheet with strong capital and liquidity levels
CET1 ratio of 18.2% was in line with Q1 2021.
An interim dividend of 3 pence per share is proposed.
The liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) of 164%, representing £75.3 billion headroom above 100% minimum requirement, increased by 6 percentage points compared with Q1 2021, reflecting the continued growth in customer deposits.
Net lending increased by £2.2 billion to £362.7 billion during H1 2021. Across the UK and RBSI retail and commercial businesses, net lending excluding UK Government support schemes, increased by £4.1 billion, or 2.8% on an annualised basis, including £7.0 billion of mortgage growth.
Customer deposits increased by £35.5 billion during H1 2021 to £467.2 billon, as customers sought to retain liquidity and reduced spending. Treasury repo activity drove £11.5 billion of balance growth.
RWAs decreased by £7.3 billion to £163.0 billion during H1 2021 mainly reflecting business movements in Commercial Banking.
Hear more from CEO Alison Rose in this short film about our results.