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Metro Bank expects defaults to rise as COVID-19 support measures fade out

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Metro Bank expects defaults to rise as COVID-19 support measures fade out 1

(Reuters) – Metro Bank posted a much bigger annual loss on Wednesday and said it expects defaults to rise through the year in line with its provisions as government support measures set in place due to the COVID-19 crisis are wound down.

The mid-sized company, part of a breed of challenger banks set up to take on the dominance of bigger and more conventional lenders in Britain, said underlying pretax loss was 271.8 million pounds ($385.58 million) for the 12 months ended Dec. 31 compared to 11.7 million pounds a year earlier.

“The pandemic has clearly impacted performance, leading to significant expected credit losses, but our transformation strategy is firmly on track and we have accelerated initiatives to shift our asset mix, bringing higher yield and improving net interest margin, as evidenced in the second half,” Chief Executive Officer Daniel Frumkin said.

Metro, which relieved some of the pressure on its capital levels last year by selling one of its portfolios to NatWest, estimated impact from the coronavirus pandemic to be 124 million pounds.

The bank, whose net interest margin fell to 1.22% from 1.51% in a low interest rate environment, said provisions to cover loan losses amounted to 126.7 million pounds at 2020-end, compared with 11.7 million pounds a year earlier.

The company said the increase in expected credit losses was driven by deteriorating macro-economic scenarios that have increased the probability of defaults.

($1 = 0.7049 pounds)

(Reporting by Muvija M in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)

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