Permanent TSB has reported a profit before exceptional items and tax of €94m for 2018, up 45% year on year. 

The bank said it grew market share in the year, while it also significantly reducing its non-performing loans through two large loan sales. 

CEO Jeremy Masding described 2018 as a "transformational year" for the company. He said the bank's  mortgage lending is up 40%, its mortgage market share stand at over 15%, its capital ratios are strong, while its non-performing loans have reduced,

"Perhaps most importantly for us as an organisation we've announced our exit from the 2015 restructuring plan," he said. "We still have more to do to transform the organisation but as of today I'm absolutely delighted with where we stand," the CEO added. 

One area that needs more work at the lender is non-performing loans. During 2018 Permanent TSB sold more than 16,000 loans in order to reduce the bad debt on its books - bringing its NPL ratio down to 10%. That is a significant improvement for the bank but it is still double the ratio the European Central Bank would like to see.

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Mr Masding said the bank was looking at all options in achieving that - and would not rule further mortgage sales out. "Last year's transactions reduced NPLs by 70% so, by definition, 2019 activity will be lower but we'll continue to look at all the options available," he said. "I wouldn't rule anything in and I wouldn't rule anything out," he said. 

He added that he would like to see the NPL ratio in low single digits by the end of 2019 - though that will depend heavily on market conditions. 

Another way PTSB has sought to bolster its books is by stiffening the rules around free banking on legacy current accounts. This means that, from March, customers will need to have €2,500 on deposit at all times in order to avoid fees - something out of the reach of many. 

Mr Masding said this decision was made with a view to increasing profitability at the bank - which ultimately was to the benefit of the taxpayer. "We actually opened 38,000 new current accounts in 2018," he said. "In terms of our legacy current accounts it's important that we try and create a bank that's creating value for the taxpayer - because at the end of the day we were bailed out and we need to pay back the funds," he said.

"We have to remain competitive and we'll continue to review our legacy offerings so we can make a return for the taxpayer and the shareholders. That's really our governing objective."

FBD Holdings sees €1m dip in total amount of insurance it sold

Insurer FBD Holdings also had its results for 2018 out today as it reported a €50m pre-tax profit - up slightly on 2017. This was despite a €1m dip in the total amount of insurance sold by the firm, with a 41% rise in underwriting profit making up that difference.

FBD's chief executive Fiona Muldoon said she was not concerned at the fall in gross written premium, against a backdrop of rising car and home ownership, adding that the business needed to be careful in the risk in undertook. "We're very happy with the set of results," she said. "I think it's very important that, whatever we do, we do it in a way that is profitable. 

"We are facing a lot of competition - it is a very competitive marketplace out there - we believe we've a very strong offering but we also have to make sure that the risks that we accept are good risks and in that respect underwriting discipline is a very important part of how we make money for our shareholders," Ms Muldoon said. 

That competitive market has not helped to push down the cost of car insurance, at least not at the rate that it rose by some years ago. Ms Muldoon put the blame for that squarely at the door of the legal system and the awards often issued to those involved in incidents.

"I am on record as saying that for society there is a choice to be made and that is between the size of the court awards that we make in this country, which are four times for whiplash what you would be awarded with the same injury in the UK," she said. "We've a choice to be made between that and a lower cost of insurance for everybody.

"I think for the farmers and business people and motorists that we insure, we will continue to lobby to make sure that the recommendations in the report that the Government brought forward two years ago are implemented. I think in that respect we would regard the progress as disappointingly slow," the insurer's CEO said. 

During 2018, Ms Muldoon was subject to an internal probe following a complaint. She was cleared following an investigation by William Fry and she said the process did not prove a distraction to the running of the business.

"I'm very pleased that the team has remained focused on our business and in the face of a lot of competition we have continued to be focused," she said. "I don't believe that we allowed that to get in the way of making sure that the business kept going," she added.