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UK’s Co-op Bank cuts losses despite pandemic hit

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UK's Co-op Bank cuts losses despite pandemic hit 1

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Co-op Bank cut its annual losses in 2020 despite a 22 million pound hit from expected loan defaults due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The bank on Thursday reported pretax losses of 103.7 million pounds, down from 152.1 million pounds the previous year.

Co-op Bank has been labouring to turn around its finances since its near-collapse and rescue by a group of U.S. hedge funds in 2017.

Talks between the bank’s backers and potential buyer investment firm Cerberus collapsed in December without agreement.

“We will have (takeover) interest coming into our shareholders… I think it’s a fact for this bank with the shareholders we have,” Co-op Bank chief executive Nick Slape said.

“I’m just focused on running the bank and getting us profitable. These are distractions that happen every now and again.”

The lender expects to return to “sustainable profitability” from 2021 onwards, despite underlying losses tripling to 64 million pounds last year as the pandemic crunched the lender’s income.

Slape said growth in mortgage lending to take advantage of a housebuying boom and lower costs would help the bank to achieve its target.

Co-op Bank cut around 350 jobs and closed 18 branches last year to reduce costs.

The bank’s core capital buffer – a key measure of financial resilience – was 19.2%.

The lender also said it would link part of executive pay to environmental and social targets from 2022 onwards.

(Reporting by Iain Withers; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Jane Merriman)

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