New KBC Bank chief says he's ‘comfortable’ with Irish share of mortgage market

Peter Roebben.

The new boss of KBC Bank Ireland has said he is currently “comfortable” with its share of the Irish mortgage market and indicated he has ruled out selling soured mortgages to vulture funds.

Peter Roebben, who took up the chief executive post in recent weeks, said the bank added €216m in lending in the first three months, up 9% from a year earlier, helping to preserve its share of the Irish market at 11.5%.

The bank offered some of the lowest mortgage rates in Ireland and it was comfortable with its market share, though it would continue to monitor what rivals would do with their mortgage rates, Mr Roebben said. He was talking after the Belgian bank and assurance group, which also has a significant operation in the Czech Republic, as well as Slovakia, Hungary, and Bulgaria, posted earnings for the first quarter.

Asked whether he planned new aggressive mortgage pricing as a challenger bank against the dominance of AIB and Bank of Ireland, he said its increase in new mortgage lending showed its pricing was competitive.

Mr Roebben said:

We think, across the board, we have a sufficiently competitive offer. The figures show that. Pricing is something you watch all the time

KBC Ireland posted a net profit of €15m in the quarter, down sharply from the €59m posted a year earlier. That comes after it booked a much lower figure for provision releases in the quarter, of €11.7m compared with the €42.7m released a year earlier.

In turn, the lower provision releases reflected a slowing in the growth of Irish house prices and its sale of corporate and buy to let loans. At the end of March, the Irish bank had almost €10.3bn in mortgage loans, of which a large amount of €2.4bn, were categorised as impaired.

The bank said by using an ECB classification it was “a bit stricter” than other banks in accounting for non-performing loans. Nonetheless, Mr Roebben said it does not plan to sell impaired home loans and that most of its customers were engaging with the lender.

“We have no plans today for a mortgage sale,” a policy, he said, which long predated the high-profile legal dispute in Co Roscommon.

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