LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - British lender NatWest reported forecast-beating third quarter earnings on Friday, setting aside a smaller-then-expected cash pile to deal with likely loan defaults due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The bank posted a 355 million pound ($462.67 million) pre-tax profit for the July-September period, compared to a 75 million pound loss in an average of analyst forecasts.
NatWest booked a further 254 million pounds provision for expected bad loans, compared to the 628 million pounds forecast. The bank said provisions for the year would be at the lower end of a 3.5-4.5 billion pound range previously given.
Rivals Lloyds, HSBC and Barclays also set aside smaller provisions in their third quarter earnings compared to earlier in the year, as government financial support measures delay some economic pain to next year.
NatWest remains 62% owned by taxpayers following its bailout in the 2008-09 financial crisis.
The quarterly profit for NatWest came despite a 324 million pound charge for buying back its own debt, as it redeemed some bonds set to lose their regulatory capital benefits and therefore become too expensive, the bank said.
The bank had plunged into the red in the first half of this year on a 2.9 billion pound provision against potential loan losses.
Despite pressure on profits across the industry, NatWest strengthened its core capital ratio - a key measure of financial strength - further to 18.2%, up from 17.2% previously.
Before the pandemic the bank had been stockpiling capital to give it the firepower to buy back government-owned shares, but a fall in bank stocks since the crisis has delayed this plan.
NatWest’s net interest margin - the difference between the money it makes on lending and pays out on deposits - came under further pressure in the quarter, falling two basis points to 1.65% compared to the previous quarter.
($1 = 0.7673 pounds)
(Reporting by Iain Withers and Lawrence White, editing by Rachel Armstrong)