RBS seeks to regain trust after post-crisis losses hit $77 billion

Thu Feb 27, 2014 7:49am EST
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By Matt Scuffham and Steve Slater

LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland sought to shake off its reputation as Britain's pariah bank on Thursday with plans to cut more costs and reposition itself as a UK-focused retail and commercial lender.

New chief executive Ross McEwan is under pressure to restore RBS's standing with its political masters and the general public after a year of fines, customer complaints and technology problems.

The bank, which is 81-percent owned by the government, on Thursday posted an 8.2 billion pound ($13.64 billion) pretax loss for 2013 due to restructuring costs and misconduct charges.

That brings the total RBS has lost since it was bailed out in 2008 to 46 billion pounds ($76.53 billion)- just above the amount taxpayers paid for its rescue during the financial crisis.

"We are the least trusted company in the least trusted sector of the economy. That must change," McEwan told an audience of employees and customers at The Trampery, a new business hub funded by RBS in the east of London.

Analysts warned it would take time for investors to see the benefit of the restructuring and there were high risks to the plan. RBS stock was the top faller among European banking shares, down 8 percent.

"We are skeptical of there being a lot of low-hanging fruit in the cost-save department given 7 billion pounds in restructuring charges taken under previous management," Jason Napier, analyst at Deutsche Bank, who has a "sell" rating on the shares.

McEwan said the bank would need to think about the implications for its Edinburgh headquarters if Scotland voted in favor of independence in September.   Continued...

A man walks past a Royal Bank of Scotland building in central London January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Hackett