BANK OF IRELAND REPORTS GOOD PROGRESS IN LATTER PART OF 2012 - Bank of Ireland results for 2012 show a loss before tax of €2.1 billion, compared to €190m the year before. Loan impairments were lower at €1.72 billion, down from €1.94 billion in 2011. The Irish State has just a 15% equity stake in the bank. Bank of Ireland said that the pace of growth in arrears - both default and early arrears - in its Irish mortgage books reduced steadily from the first three months of 2012.

Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher said that the bank's underlying profit figures last year were hit by the buying back of some of its subordinated debt. Mr Boucher said that bank made very good progress in the second half of the year in particular - its losses were down significantly, while income rose by 9%, costs fell 5% and impairment charges reduced by 20%. He said that the bank has entered 2013 with a very strong capital position, of 14.4% Tier 1 capital, adding that its deposits have grown by €4.7 billion

''We have reduced our use of monetary authority funding - down by €11 billion - and we are now approaching very normalised levels there,'' Mr Boucher said. ''We've made some further progress on our cost reduction targets and most importantly we've achieved a number of our business objectives in Ireland - we met our SME lending targets, our mortgage targets, and we've continued to pay back a significant amount of money ot the State, for the State's investment,'' he added.

The Bank of Ireland CEO said that the bank's costs - between the first and the second half - fell 5%. He said the bank has a ''regrettable but necessary redundancy'' programme underway. ''We had 1,200 colleagues leave the group last year, mainly in the last quarter, and our redundancy programmes are continuing'', he added.

He said the bank is also making investments in its businesses, particularly in Ireland - in e-banking, in mobile and in its branch network. ''I would anticipate that our costs will come down further, primarily as a consequence of our redundancy programme. Our costs are down 23% since 2009, but we still have further progress to make''.

On arrears, Mr Boucher said that the bank has just under 10% of owner occupiers in some form of arrears - that amounts to about 17,000 accounts, of which 5,000 are early arrears. ''We are continuing to restructure a significant amount of customers' mortgages as they continue to engage with us. We have made very good progress on that and we now have 95% of owner occupier either fully meeting their arrangements or are in a revised arrangement,'' he said. He said that about 1% of the bank's owner occupiers are in a legal process and it is working very hard to deal with the other 4% where it is seeking engagement to try and work to restructure their mortgages.

Mr Boucher says that repossession is ''not a desired outcome for us''. He said the bank wants to to be able to work with the customers, to restructure and re-engage with them. He says that in the year just ended, Bank of Ireland had just 96 properties in possession. It has another 74 properties with a repossession order, while it sold 88 properties on the owner occupier side during 2012. ''Inevitably the number will increase but it is not our desired outcome for the bank,'' he said.


MORNING BRIEFS - Insurance group FBD Holdings has reported pre-tax profits of €52.9m for the year to the end of December, up over 5% on profits for 2011.

*** Davy Stockbrokers has upgraded its forecast for the Irish economy, after what it called "surprisingly strong" investment spending. Davy predicts that says gross domestic product (GDP) will grow by 1.3% this year. Last October it forecast GDP growth of 0.9%. It said that figures for July, August and September showed investment spending, led by spending on machinery, was up 10% on the year, the strongest expansion since the first three months of 2007. And Davy predicts employment will grow by 0.6% this year, the first year of expansion since 2007, as private sector employment grows, and it also sees a reduction in the pace of public sector job cuts. Davy's chief economist Conall Mac Coille cautioned that monthly data on Ireland's export performance had painted a worrying picture. At the end of last year there was a severe fall in goods exports, falling by 7.5% in the final three months of the year, driven by a 12.6% fall in pharmaceutical exports.

*** Swiss voters have overwhelmingly backed curbs on corporate wages that take power away from company boards, as for the second time in under a week executive pay in Europe has came under attack. But Switzerland's referendum introduces an even broader set of curbs than those announced for Europe last week, after 68% of voters approved rules that include giving shareholders a binding say on executive pay; banning golden hellos and goodbyes; requiring annual re-elections for directors; and threatening criminal sanctions for non-compliance.