Royal Bank of Scotland restructures further


London (AFP)

Royal Bank of Scotland is shutting 259 branches and cutting hundreds more jobs, the state-rescued lender said Friday, one day after it announced the closure of its 'bad bank' operation.

RBS is undergoing huge restructuring as it looks to return to the private sector following the world's costliest bank bailout at the height of the financial crisis in 2008.

"Following a review of the RBS branch network a decision has been taken to close 62 Royal Bank of Scotland branches, and 197 NatWest branches," said a company statement.

"As a result of this process, there will be around 680 redundancies," it added, noting that customers were increasingly banking online.

The announcement comes one day after an internal memo said RBS had removed the final tranche of its bad bank operation that housed toxic assets dating back to the financial crisis.

RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said the end of the bad bank was a "key moment" for the lender.

"It has taken nearly 10 years to undo the consequences of the global ambitions pursued by RBS in the run up to the crisis," he said to staff.

"What we have achieved is unprecedented for the banking industry. We have gone from a bank with a balance sheet bigger than UK GDP to the smaller, safer bank we are today."

The stricken lender has suffered losses of about £60 billion ($81 billion, 68 billion euros) since being rescued with £45.5 billion of taxpayers' cash.

The bank's recovery has meanwhile been hampered further by it being forced to set aside billions of pounds to cover litigation costs following its roles in the US subprime mortgage and Libor rate-fixing crises.

In a bid to turn around RBS fortunes, McEwan has overseen a massive overhaul of operations, slashing the bank's investment banking activities and axing tens of thousands of jobs.

In a sign that the bank is far more stable, the British government last week said it was ready to relaunch a sale of Royal Bank Scotland.

The state is looking to recommence privatisation of RBS by March 2019, by selling about two-thirds of its 71-percent stake for roughly £15 billion.

It is hoped that some £3.0 billion of shares would be sold each year up until 2023.

The government decided in 2015 to start selling a chunk of its then stake of about 80 percent in RBS but the plan was carried out only partially owing to the lender's low share price.