AIB not expecting tracker fine until 2020

AIB is not expecting to be hit with a fine from the Central Bank over its part in the tracker mortgage scandal until next year at the earliest, but it has put aside €35m for the eventuality.

AIB not expecting tracker fine until 2020

AIB is not expecting to be hit with a fine from the Central Bank over its part in the tracker mortgage scandal until next year at the earliest, but it has put aside €35m for the eventuality.

The bank remains in enforcement talks with the Central Bank. But, speaking as AIB published financial results for the first half of this year, the bank's chief financial officer Donal Galvin said no fine is expected this year.

"It's going to go into 2020. How far into 2020 we cannot be sure. They [the Central Bank] will define the timing. But, it's not going to conclude in 2019," he said.

Of the six lenders involved in the misselling and overcharging scandal which has hit around 40,000 borrowers, only Permanent TSB has been fined - the Central Bank hitting it with a €21m fine in May for what it called "unacceptable harm" to customers.

Between them, the six affected lenders - PTSB, AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS, Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland - have set aside more than €1bn to cover compensation and fines. An estimate of €350m has been put on the total fine figure for the banks.

AIB's shares fell more than 5%, before paring some of those losses, after it reported a 43% year-on-year fall in first half pre-tax profits to €436m. That figure allows for exceptional items, which totalled €131m - mostly relating to legacy issue costs.

The €131m also includes €61m which AIB said it will be repaying to customers - both personal and SMEs - after falling short of its own transparency standards relating to the roll-over of interest on top-up loans.

Chief executive Colin Hunt said the bank is looking to address its mistakes "speedily" and in a customer-focused way.

"It is vital for the long-term viability of the bank and the sector that we close the chapter on legacy issues...We want to see the reputation of this institution being restored fully in the eyes of the public," he said.

Mr Hunt said there is a growing chance of the bank - which is still more than 70% owned by the State - returning capital to shareholders.

He said AIB's capital position is "exceptionally strong" and the business continues to be capital generative, adding that "we want to put ourselves in a position where we can return capital to shareholders."

He said, however, that he is "agnostic" over what form that may take, be it through a share buyback programme or by other means.

Regarding the likelihood of further ECB rate cuts and monetary easing policy, AIB said while a low rate environment is negative for banks it is working on putting its balance sheet in as strong a position as possible to withstand any economic outcome.

In the first half, AIB further lowered its non-performing loan exposure - decreasing to 7.5%, from 9.6%, of its total loan book.

It remains on course to hit the European average of 5% by the end of this year, but remains coy on further loan sales following numerous sell-offs in the last few years.

"We have a very strong preference to keep these relationships within AIB...to keep these assets sitting on our balance sheet," said Mr Hunt.

"We've 1,300 people working on non-performing exposures and 100,000 restructuring solutions put in place. We've an array of options, more than any other institution, at our disposal in relation to addressing this issue, but we can't rule anything out," he said.

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