NatWest Group Achieves Highest Annual Profit Since Pre-Financial Crisis

NatWest Group has disclosed its most substantial yearly profit since the period just preceding the financial crisis in 2007.

The banking conglomerate revealed a pre-tax profit of £6.2bn for the year 2023, surpassing expectations.

Additionally, it announced the appointment of Paul Thwaite as its permanent chief executive. Thwaite succeeds Dame Alison Rose, who resigned the previous year after acknowledging discussions regarding the closure of Nigel Farage’s bank account.

The board affirmed Thwaite as the “ideal candidate” to steer the group towards its future endeavours.

This announcement coincides with the group’s preparations for a potential public share offering, possibly slated for as early as June.

The government still retains a 35% ownership stake in the bank, following its £46bn bailout during the financial crisis.

UK Government Investments (UKGI), the entity overseeing government investments, has been exploring a share sale since the chancellor unveiled plans in 2023.

Since its bailout in 2008, NatWest, formerly Royal Bank of Scotland, has steadily decreased the government’s shareholding through sales to institutional investors and repurchases by the bank itself.

On Friday, the group disclosed a 20% increase in pre-tax profits for 2023 compared to the previous year and announced a £300m share buyback.

While heightened interest rates have bolstered revenues, the bank cautioned that a challenging economic environment could impact future earnings.

NatWest stated it would distribute £356m in staff bonuses, slightly down from £368m in the preceding year.

In its annual report released on Friday, NatWest confirmed that Dame Alison Rose would receive £2.4m in pay, pension contributions, and benefits for her notice period, concluding on 26 July this year.

Due to her resignation not meeting the criteria for “good leaver” status, Dame Alison will forego £5.1m in share awards and potential bonuses and other awards amounting to up to £2.8m.

In addition to the new chief executive, Richard Haythornthwaite has been appointed to succeed Sir Howard Davies as NatWest chair.

Haythornthwaite, presently chair of Ocado and the AA motoring and insurance organisation, will relinquish his other chairmanships upon assuming the role at NatWest on 15 April.

Sir Howard Davies faced criticism last year for expressing the board’s “full confidence” in Dame Alison Rose following the controversy surrounding Nigel Farage‘s account closure discussions with a BBC journalist.

However, just a day later, NatWest announced Dame Alison’s resignation.

Earlier this year, Sir Howard drew ire for remarking that it wasn’t “that difficult” for first-time buyers to enter the property market.

He remarked to the BBC: “I don’t think it is that difficult at the moment,” noting, “You have to save, and that is the way it always used to be.”

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