Belfast Telegraph

Profits set to follow banking share dive

By Jamie Grierson

Judging by the slide in their share prices, results from Britain's major banks will provide a snapshot of a gruelling first six months of 2011.

HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland are all expected to reveal a drop in profits in their interim updates over the next week.

The payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling scandal has bruised the accounts of all four lenders, while planned ringfencing of retail banking operations, as proposed by the Independent Commission on Banking, has also knocked confidence.

But most of all the sector has been hit by a volatile global economic climate, particularly as the eurozone debt crisis continues and fears over the strength of the US recovery persist.

Taxpayer-backed banks, Lloyds and RBS, have seen their shares plunge 30% and 17% respectively in the last six months alone, while Barclays' shares have plummeted 26% and HSBC has lost 14%.

Greece and Portugal took EU bailouts in the period and concerns have been raised about the state of Italy and Spain's public finances - all of which heightened the risk of debt contagion spreading through banks across Europe and the world.

The US debt crisis has most recently been given as a reason to avoid banking stocks - the deadline to raise its borrowing limit creeps nearer by the day, with the threat of a potentially catastrophic default weighing on investors' minds.

Barclays, which reports on Tuesday, is expected to reveal a 24% drop in reported profits to £1.8bn, according to broker Seymour Pierce.

The downward trend at investment banking arm Barclays Capital is expected to continue in the first-half results as investors struggle with a weak economic climate.

The bank has already indicated it has set aside some £1bn for its PPI provision, which will also have an impact on its figures.

Taxpayer-backed Lloyds Banking Group is expected to report pre-tax profits of £1bn on Thursday, a steep reduction on the £1.6 bn reported a year earlier.