RBS boss faces results test as break-up looms

RBS building

Ross McEwan, the new boss of Royal Bank of Scotland, will present his first set of results to City analysts this week amid speculation about the future structure of the bailed-out bank.

McEwan, who replaced Stephen Hester at the start of the month, will oversee the release of third-quarter figures on Friday which are likely to be overshadowed by questions about whether the government will recommend hiving off a "bad" bank.

His presentation will come days after the Lloyds boss, António Horta-Osório, also presents third-quarter results amid focus on the share price. The Portuguese banker stands to collect 3m shares – worth £2.4m at current prices – next month if the share price remains above 73.6p until the middle of the month.

That price, which must be maintained for 30 consecutive days, is regarded as the level at which the taxpayer breaks even on its stake. It has traded over that price since mid-October. The government sold off the first tranche of its stake in the bank in September.

George Osborne has commissioned bankers at Rothschild to consider the merits of splitting up RBS into a bad bank containing problem loans and a good bank that can be more easily privatised.

As much as £120bn of the bank's loans is said to have been considered in the review which was sparked by the parliamentary commission on banking standards. Osborne signalled the review in his Mansion House speech in June, seeming to contradict his previous position on a potential break-up of RBS.

In an interview a week ago the chancellor said: "We are looking at the case for a bad bank, and if not a bad bank what is the alternative strategy that really gets on top of the problems in that bank and goes on being what I want it to be which is a bank supporting the British economy."

McEwan has already prepared staff for the outcome the Rothschild review, telling them that the organisational structure of the bank is less important than their day-to-day role in handling customers.

While the chancellor commissioned the report, the board of RBS will have to decide on its implementation. The bank has warned that the government could be prevented from creating a bad bank by other RBS shareholders, who would need to approve any such move.

McEwan is not expected to use the third quarter results to set out his vision for RBS, a bank he joined a year ago to run the high street operations before being promoted. His strategy update is expected to take place in February.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jill Treanor, for The Guardian on Monday 28th October 2013 00.40 Europe/London

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image: © Mark Ramsey

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