What's going on?
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) – once the world’s largest company – may finally be putting the global financial crisis behind it (a decade on) as it announced on Friday its first payout to shareholders since the 2008 fiasco. Its shares did a highland jig, rising 3%.
What does this mean?
RBS has had a lot to deal with since the financial crisis – misselling of financial investments led to over $10 billion in fines and left its reputation in tatters. The bank has undergone massive restructuring, like closing down 162 local bank branches in the UK and greatly shrinking its investment banking business. But RBS has finally started to regain some lost luster: its revenue is climbing steadily and it should have now paid the worst of the fines.
RBS’s ability to pay its shareholders a dividend is a significant milestone – and shows investors the bank is beginning to gain some confidence in its finances after being bailed out by the UK government.
Why should I care?
For markets: The ghost of financial crisis past might finally be moving on.
RBS expects to continue raising its dividend payouts – the bank is aiming to divvy out 40% of its 2020 profit to shareholders (tweet this). This will also mean that the UK government can continue selling off some of its 62% stake in the bank (which it bought in October 2008 as part of the bailout) as more investors will be able buy its shares (several investors can’t buy shares if they don’t pay a dividend). The company still has work to do – it’s being investigated by UK regulators for giving unsuitable advice and could be impacted by Brexit uncertainty – but investors might be hoping for a rosier outlook.
The bigger picture: Other European banks are also improving.
Alongside RBS, other European banks like Credit Agricole, BNP Paribas and Société Générale all turned in decent results, with Credit Agricole’s profit notably boosted by investment banking activity (like advising on mergers and acquisitions).