Ulster Bank has reported an operating loss of £1.040 billion sterling for 2012 compared to operating losses of £984m in 2011.

The bank, which is owned by RBS, said the challenging economic environment across the island of Ireland had a significant impact on its financial performance for 2012.

But it also said there were some emerging signs of improvement during the latter part of the year, most notably in the availability of institutional funding, some stabilisation of residential property prices and ''modest'' economic growth.

The bank also noted a ''gentle'' decline in the level of impairments, with money set aside to cover bad debts easing to £1.364 billion from £1.384 billion.

It reported an operating profit, before impairment losses, of £324m, down from the £400m reported in 2011. Net interest income also fell to £649m from £736m, while total income for the year eased to £845m from £947m.

Ulster Bank's chief executive Jim Brown said that the bank remains committed to working with any of its customers who are experiencing difficulty and who engage with the bank on a ''genuine basis'' to find a solution. He said the bank had significantly increased investment in its contact capabilities to support this.

The bank's chief executive said that impairment losses remain elevated, due to underlying credit metrics, new defaulting customers and deteriorating security values.