LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - NatWest Group plunged into the red in the first half of the year after setting aside a fresh 2.1 billion pound ($2.76 billion) provision against a potential surge in loan losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The quarterly charge came in above analyst expectations of 1.7 billion pounds, according to an average of forecasts compiled by the British state-backed lender, and pushed provisions for the first six months of the year to 2.8 billion pounds.
NatWest posted a 770 million pound pretax loss for the first half, compared to a 2.7 billion pound profit the previous year.
The newly-rebranded bank - which ditched its Royal Bank of Scotland group name earlier this month - follows rivals Barclays and Lloyds this week in setting aside hefty provisions for potential loan losses.
NatWest remains 62% owned by taxpayers following its bailout in the 2008-09 financial crisis. ($1 = 0.7618 pounds) (Reporting by Iain Withers and Lawrence White, editing by Rachel Armstrong)