Lloyds' profits surge despite £350m set aside for PPI
Lloyds Banking Group has doubled its profit in the first three months of the year amid a 'sweet spot' thanks to the economy's resilience since the Brexit vote.
The Halifax owner - which has almost 20 branches in Northern Ireland - posted a better-than-expected set of first-quarter figures, with pre-tax profits surging to £1.3bn, up from £654m a year earlier.
This came despite the bank being forced to set aside £350m to cover mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) claims and £100m to cover compensation for victims of fraud by former HBOS staff.
On an underlying basis, the group saw a more muted 1% rise in profits to £2.08bn, but this defied expectations for a decline as it said the economy was still holding up well.
Lloyds - a bellwether of the economy, given its position as the biggest mortgage lender - said growth remained strong and is expected to continue at a similar rate to 2016, at around 2%.
Lloyds operates a large sales centre at the Gasworks in Belfast, employing hundreds of workers.
Richard Hunter, head of research at Wilson King Investment Management, said the bank was in the middle of a 'sweet spot' caused by the robust economy.
But experts flagged concerns over the bank's exposure to a downturn, with fears mounting that surging inflation caused by the Brexit-hit pound will bring an end to consumer spending-driven growth.
The first-quarter earnings mark another step forward in the bank's recovery story as it edges closer to being fully returned to private hands in the coming months, with the Government stake being cut to below 2% earlier this month.