Green shoots for Danske and drug firm
A new name, a new financial year and its seems one of Northern Ireland's biggest banks is steadily working towards that rarity in the banking world: profit.
Danske Bank isn't quite there yet but with a loss of £1m for its Northern Ireland business in the first three months of the year, it is tantalisingly close, especially given that figure compares to the £56m it lost during the same period last year.
Most of the reduction in losses at the bank, which changed its name to that of its Danish parent from Northern Bank last autumn, have come from a big cut to impairment charges to just £16.2m from £71m in 2012.
Impairments refer to money set aside to protect against bad debts which the bank doesn't expect to get back, the bulk of which are in the property market.
That offers a glimmer of hope for the housing market but other areas of Danske's results suggest a still-contracting business world in Northern Ireland and retail customers with a more prudent outlook.
It put a 2% fall in income down to the "continued low demand for business lending" and a 5% year-on-year dip in overall lending volumes down to lower business activity levels.
Deposits, meanwhile, climbed 8% on the year and the deposit to loan ratio at the bank is "well above 100%".
Danske, which earlier this week told the Belfast Telegraph it was in the process of signing up to the Bank of England's funding for lending scheme, said it had the "best-ever quarter in terms of new business customers switching to us".
Gerry Mallon, whose expanded role under the new name sees him head up Danske Bank UK and Ireland, said the results are encouraging but warned there are still headwinds.
"Property-related impairment charges have fallen again but do continue to weigh on our overall performance along with low interest rates and low economic growth," he said. "The aspects of our performance that are within our control are all moving in the right direction, and we remain on course to achieve our desired level of profitability."
And he said the economy, while still hamstrung, may indeed be showing signs of the elusive green shoots of recovery.
"Although the confidence that is important to economic recovery remains low for consumers and businesses, there are more signs for encouragement in 2013 than we have seen in a long time."
Amount of losses in the same period last year
The amount deposits rose over the year
Impairment charges fell from £71m in 2012