Northern Bank reported a loss of £100m (€114m) for last year, it was revealed today.
It made an operating profit of £68.6m (€78.5m), but had to set aside £168.7m (€193.2m) to cover loans it thinks might not be repaid, largely in the property sector.
The bank returned to profitability in the last quarter of the year, making £2.2m (€2.5m) in that period.
It published its annual report today.
Chief executive Gerry Mallon said that, while conditions remained tough, he was optimistic this year would see slow recovery.
“Given the local climate, we had to make prudent provision for potential losses,” he said.
“However, these provisions have reduced across the year and we were able to comfortably absorb these within our strong capital base.”
Its comparative loss for 2008 was only £12m (€13.7m).
Mr Mallon said that, despite the huge bad loan provision, the size of actual write-offs was very low at £7.6m (€m)8.7 for the year.
Total lending fell by 4% despite mortgage growth of 6% year on year. Deposits remained constant.
Mr Mallon said the bank faced aggressive competition for customer deposits but was successful in retaining its deposit base.
“We have seen reduced demand for business lending as many have cut back on investment and development,” he added.
“At the same time our corporate banking team has been successful, winning some really good new business.”
Northern Bank began in 1809 as a Belfast-based banking company known as the Northern Banking Partnership.
It was acquired by the Danske Bank Group in 2005, the largest bank in Denmark and a major player in Scandinavian financial markets.
It has 83 branches in Northern Ireland, employing 1,250 people.