ROYAL Bank of Scotland will this week post its second consecutive annual profits since its £45 billion government bailout a decade ago.

Experts believe the lender ended last year around £1.4 billion on the black - a figure twice as high as in 2017.

Analysts believe is still little chance of the government recouping its investment in RBS. The bank’s share price remains at half the level it was when ministers ordered a buy-out in 2008.

However, they reckon positive numbers, scheduled to be unveiled on Friday, could mean the Government brings forward its long-standing plans to sell more of its shares, even at a loss.

The profits over the last two years come after a decade-long run of stinging losses, during a period marred by crisis-era legacy and conduct charges.

Chief executive Ross McEwan in 2018 saw the bank draw a line under the last of the major misconduct settlements in August, reaching a $4.9 billion agreement with US authorities over alleged misselling of residential mortgage-backed securities.

The Government currently owns 62.4 per cent of RBS. However, the bank recently gained shareholder approval to buy back up to £1.5 billion worth of of its shares from the Treasury.

The move, which aims to speed up its privatisation and deploy excess capital, permits RBS to purchase up to 4.99 per cent of the Government’s stake in any one year.

The bank’s shares have rallied since December and Ian Gordon, analyst at Investec, believes another upward spurt could see the Treasury offload another tranche.

He said: “RBS shares have already rallied by 23 per cent over the past two months. It’s (almost) time for the UK Government to leave. Another circa 10 per cent or so and we suspect that it will become a willing seller again.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond said in his Autumn Statement that the Government plans to dispose of its stake in full by 2024, but Investec is pencilling in an exit by 2023.

This is based on the assumption of directed share buybacks of 4.99 per cent per year, supplemented by yearly market placings by the Government of £3 billion.

Mr Gordon also believes that RBS will declare a 10p special dividend alongside its results.

RBS was bailed out at 502p per share but its stock is currently trading at around 240p.

Investors will be watching RBS as a bellwether for Brexit. The bank’s shares were dented in October after third quarter result showed a £100 million charge to reflect the “more uncertain economic outlook” in Britain ahead of March 29.

Observers will be listening intently to Mr McEwan’s words for any further warning signals.

Analysts at The Share Centre said: “After a poor 2018 the share price has regained some upward momentum this year. Investors will be hoping for better news on revenues and impairments over the final quarter. Other areas of interest will be the group’s outlook, especially relating to Brexit, future dividend policy and any further news on buying back shares from the Government.”

Sky News has reported that RBS will pay out bonuses of some £335m on the back of the 2018 profits. These will be confirmed with the annual accounts.

RBS continues to face controversies. Last year it announced it would axe 52 branches in Scotland, once its heartland, and lose hundreds more jobs in the UK.

As it did so it was revealed that the bank was hiring staff in India at £1.19 an hour. Trade union Unite said UK workers were being replaced by Indian “slave-price labour”.