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Bank of Ireland says third quarter trading beat expectations, outlook unchanged

FILE PHOTO: General view of a branch of the Bank of Ireland with the reflection of Grand Canal Square in the Docklands visible in its windows amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Dublin, Ireland, October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Bank of Ireland BIRG.I said trading in the third quarter beat expectations as customers still on payment breaks due to COVID-19 disruptions fell to 20,000 from 106,000 at the peak and it completed a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Irish banks provided repayment breaks of up to six months for impacted borrowers, and have begun to assess further forbearance options for those still struggling as the blanket breaks end and COVID-19 constraints ramp up again.

Bank of Ireland said it had 11,100 breaks outstanding in Ireland by Oct. 16 -- 6,400 for mortgage holders -- and another 8,900 broadly split between home and consumer loans in the United Kingdom, where it is the largest Irish lender.

The bank put aside 937 million euros (850 million pounds) in the first half of the year mainly to cover likely losses from the payment breaks, making up the bulk of what it called a prudent charge of 1.1-1.3 billion euros expected for 2020.

It also introduced a voluntary redundancy scheme as part of plans to cut staff numbers to below 9,000 from 10,340 at the end of June.

It said on Wednesday that it agreed terms with 1,450 staff, leading to a one-off charge of 169 million euros but a cut in annual staff costs of 114 million euros, or 14%.

Ireland’s largest bank by assets said its net interest margin and capital were broadly stable with net interest income down 2% year on year in the nine months to September versus its guidance for a 5% full-year fall thanks to a rebound in lending.

“Taking into account this positive trading, the potential impact of increased restrictions to control the pandemic and on-going uncertainties in relation to Brexit, our overall expectation for 2020 performance is unchanged,” it said.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Jason Neely

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