UK: Co-operative Group posts £559m first half loss amid banking arm woes

The Co-operative Group plunged to pre-tax losses of £559 million in the first six months of the year

The Co-operative Group plunged to pre-tax losses of £559 million in the first six months of the year due to heavy losses at its banking arm - Credit: PA

The Co-operative Group today plunged to a £559million first-half loss as heavy bad debts in its banking arm wiped out profits from its supermarkets.

The group said there would be “no quick fixes” as it embarks on a four-year turnaround plan, after reporting pre-tax losses of £709.4m for the Co-operative Bank in the six months to the end of June.

City regulator the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) said the scale of the losses did not alter its demand that the Co-op must plug a £1.5billion hole in its balance sheet.

The Co-op, which employs more than 100,000 people, warned of job losses as it restructures the wider group as well as the bank - but did not say how many staff will go.

New boss Euan Sutherland said: “It’s inevitable in a restructuring of this size that there will be some jobs at risk.”

He said the Co-op has “no plan B” for rescuing its bank, as it finalises plans to inject £1.5bn into the embattled division.

Bondholders ranging from pensioners to hedge funds will have to take a loss on their investment under plans for a “bail-in” in coming months. They will be forced to contribute £500m through an “exchange offer”, which will result in a stock market listing for the bank. The Co-op will inject £1 billion itself into the bank.

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The bank, which employs about 10,000 staff, slashed the value of its loans by £496m, as corporate loans acquired with its disastrous takeover of Britannia Building Society in 2009 continue to deteriorate.

It also wrote down almost £150m on a new IT system, which had been planned by former management.

And the bank booked another £61m to cover the cost of previous misconduct,including £25m for mis-sold payment protection insurance, £26m for credit card and identity theft protection and £10m for mis-sold interest rate swaps.

The bank’s £709.4m loss compares with a £59m loss a year earlier, while the loss at group compares with a profit £18m in the first half of 2012.

Mr Sutherland, who replaced former boss Peter Marks in May, said: “We are sorry but we are a new team and grasping the nettle and getting on with fixing the situation.”

He said while there has been a small trickle of deposits leaving the bank, customers have largely been loyal.

The PRA said it factored in the scale of the losses when it signed off the Co-op’s turnaround plan in June.

It said: “The Prudential Regulation Authority anticipated the likely scale and source of these losses when it made its assessment of the bank’s capital position in June.

“Consequently, the announcement today does not affect the PRA’s assessment that the Co-operative Bank has a capital shortfall of £1.5 billion relative to 7% core equity capital after adjustments.”

Profits in the food arm, which is the UK’s fifth-biggest grocer with more than 2,700 supermarkets and convenience stores, dipped to £117.4m from £119m a year earlier in a “challenging market”.

The Co-op said it expects a better second half from the retailer, as a turnaround focusing on better stock availability and store refits gathers pace.

Operating profits in its pharmacy business dipped to £14.3m from £16.1m a year earlier as it was hit by government funding cuts to medicines. But profits in its funeralcare arm advanced 15% to £41.8m.

: : The East of England Co-operative Society based at Wherstead, near Ipswich, is not part of the Co-operative Group and is not affected by the group’s restructuring.