Ulster Bank has reported a modest improvement in operating profit on the first half of last year - it was up €3m to €12m.

It is being impacted by restructuring costs.

Operating expenses were down €60m to €342m.

Ulster Bank CEO Gerry Mallon said the overall performance was better reflected in the adjusted operating profit figure for the first half of €104m.

"Our core costs are coming down. Staff costs are down 10%. Underlying income from customer business is up. We're growing new lending by 11%. 

"On the cost side, there were cost releases on the first half of last year which makes things difficult to compare this year," Mr Mallon explained.
 
"There was a fall in hedging income over the first half. That's where we have capital that we would hedge forward and the interest rate environment simply means that they generate less, but the core business is performing a lot better.

He said the bank hadn't set aside any more money for the tracker mortgage review but it had set aside €39m in a related case.

"As we conducted the tracker mortgage review, we reviewed thousands of files and we found that there were errors and inconsistencies. This review will take a broad look across the spectrum of fields from the past. If anything needs to be fixed, we'll fix it," he concluded.

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Insurer FBD also reported half year results with profit before tax of €11.9m for the half year.

It also swung from an underwriting loss of €1.6m last year to a profit of €11.1m.

Fiona Muldoon, CEO of FBD explained that it was partly to do with a release of money it had initially set aside to cover the collapse of Setanta insurance.

"The Supreme Court found that MIBI (Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland) was no longer liable to meet Setanta's insolvency. It will instead be met by the Insurance Compensation Fund by way of a levy on motor insurance premiums.

Asked if the massive increases in insurance premiums in recent years partly explained that increase in FBD's profits, Fiona Muldoon said the insurer had raised capital, cut costs and took difficult actions to get to that position.

"We make seven cent on every euro in premiums we bring in. We are charging customers more that we charged them two years ago. That situation will continue until we can lower the cost of claims. As long as claims remain high, I don't see any downward momentum to premiums."

Ms Muldoon called for a strengthening of the powers of the Personal Injuries Board. In addition, she said the industry had to find more ways of detecting fraud and combat payouts that are being paid for by 'honest motorists.'

She said the experience of FBD was that injury awards went up 26% between 2015 and 16 and by a further 6% between last year and this year.

Premiums, she said, went up by 5% in the same period.

"The costs are passed onto the customer in order for the insurer to put itself in a sustainable position."