BANK OF IRELAND'S HALF YEARLY LOSSES AND IMPAIRMENTS NARROW - Bank of Ireland has reported a loss before tax of €504m for the six months to the end of June - this compares to a loss of €1.26 billion the same time last year. Impairment charges on loans to customers have also been reduced, falling from €941m last year to €780m at the end of June. Default or arrears of over 90 days, on owner occupier mortgages, grew in the six months to 10.52%, compared to 9.88% at the end of last year. The bank said the volume of default arrears in the owner occupied segment has continued to increase, reflecting the continued impact of the general economic downturn in Ireland and affordability issues like falling disposable incomes and sustained high unemployment levels. Buy-to-let default arrears is much higher at just over 26%. Bank of Ireland said it is "actively working" with its challenged Irish mortgage and SME customers on restructuring their loans, with it says good progress being made.

Richie Boucher, Bank of Ireland's chief executive, says that while economic conditions remain challenging in the first six months of the year, there were some signs of improvement with a pick-up in demand for credit and mortgages evident over the last two or three months. On the SME side, Mr Boucher also said that the bank did about half the lending for small and medium sized businesses in the six month period. While challenges remain for some of the bank's customers, Mr Boucher said that the pace of customers who are moving into impairment is slowing down, while the bank has also seen some stabilisation of house prices.

AIB's chief executive David Duffy said yesterday that strategic default is an issue in about 20% of its mortgage arrears book. Mr Boucher said that a ''certain proportion'' of Bank of Ireland's customers who are in arrears are not engaging with the bank. ''It is not for me to judge the specific reasons why a customer isn't choosing to engage - it might be quite daunting, they might have issues in their personal lives or they are making a choice,'' he states. But he says that when customers who are in financial distress do engage with the bank, they can be ''pleasantly surprised'' by the options available to them. He says the bank has about 16,000 restructured mortgages in place and about 4,700 have moved out of restructure since the end of last year and the end of June. About 85% of that 4,700 are back on an ''acceptable'' basis of repayments, he adds.

Mr Boucher says that Bank of Ireland would always regard the family home repayments as a priority for households. He says the bank has been calling for a more appropriate approach to repayments of unsecured debt and other debt, which would allow it to restructure much more mortgages, as happens in its other markets including the UK. He says the bank also has a responsibility to its other customers, pointing out that nine out of 10 owner-occupiers are paying their mortgage in full - despite the challenges they may be facing. He says the bank needs capital and liquidity to support the economy and the bank's own business objectives. ''We don't have a policy of debt forgiveness,'' he states.


MORNING BRIEFS - Ulster Bank has reported a first half loss of €387m for the six months to the end of June, down from €675m the same time last year. Impairment losses in the six month period fell by 30% to €591m from €782m, which the bank said was due to lower mortgage impairments. It said this reflected an improvement in the the performance of underlying credit metrics and economic conditions.

*** Ulster Bank's parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland, today said that Ross McEwan, its head of retail banking, will succeed Stephen Hester as chief executive from October 1. The bank also reported pre-tax profits of £1.4 billion sterling in the six months to June 30 against losses of £1.7 billion a year earlier.

*** UPC Ireland said it added 9,000 subscriptions for its fibre powered broadband, TV and phone services across its home and business divisions in the last three months. Its total subscriptions are now at a record level of 1,021,600. It now has over 320,000 broadband customers , a 13% year-on-year increase.

*** As part of a plan to boost Irish exports into the high-growth "BRICS" markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, an additional 20 Enterprise Ireland staff are to be recruited locally in those markets at a cost of €1.44m to the exchequer. It is believed the initiative will generate an additional €250m a year in exports, or up to 1,200 jobs on the basis that every €1m in new exports creates at least four new jobs.