THE owner of Royal Bank of Scotland has declared its hope that the UK economy will experience a “more rapid recovery” from the pandemic than previously thought.

NatWest Group said this morning that it has released a further £600 million of provisions previously made in anticipation of loans turning bad because of the fall-out from the pandemic.

The release was made in first-half accounts for the state-backed bank, which revealed an operating profit before tax of £2.5 billion for the six months ended June 30. The bank had reported a loss of £770m at the same stage last year.

Hailing a “strong and resilient performance”, the bank this morning announced an interim dividend per share, alongside a share buy-back of up to £750m. It also declared that it would increase its minimum annual distribution to shareholders to £1bn for the next three years.

The bank, which changed its name to NatWest from Royal Bank of Scotland at parent group level last year, remains 55 per cent owned by UK taxpayers following its tax-payer bailout during the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

Chief executive Alison Rose said: “These results have been driven by good operating performances across the Group, underpinned by a robust loan book and a strong capital position. Defaults remain low and, given the improved outlook, we have released a further £0.6 billion of impairment provisions in the quarter.

“While we see the potential for a more rapid recovery, we will continue to take an appropriate and conservative approach as the government schemes wind down and the economy reopens.”