Lloyds reports higher profits but sees Brexit uncertainty ahead

(c) Sky News 2019: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/lloyds-reports-higher-profits-but-sees-brexit-uncertainty-ahead-11642644">Lloyds reports higher profits but sees Brexit uncertainty ahead</a>

Lloyds Banking Group has shrugged off Brexit concerns as it reported a 13% rise in annual profits - but warned of an uncertain short-term outlook for the UK.

The lender also put aside a further £200m to deal with the ongoing issue of Payment Protection Issue (PPI) mis-selling claims.

Its comments on Brexit, weeks ahead of a possible no-deal departure from the European Union, follow warnings from HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS.L - news) .

The group, which owns Halifax and Bank of Scotland as well as Lloyds Bank, reported a pre-tax profit of £5.96bn for 2018, up from £5.28bn the year before.

It also announced plans to return £4bn to investors via a hike in its dividend and share buyback. Shares (Berlin: DI6.BE - news) were up almost 5% by the end of trading.

Chief (Taiwan OTC: 3345.TWO - news) executive Antonio Horta-Osorio said the bank's performance was "inextricably linked to the health of the UK economy".

He said Britain had "proven itself to be resilient with record employment and continued GDP growth" but acknowledged uncertainty ahead.

Mr Horta-Osorio added: "Whilst the near-term outlook for the UK economy remains unclear, particularly given the ongoing EU withdrawal negotiations, our strategy will continue to deliver for our customers."

Lloyds said its additional provision for PPI took its total set aside for the year to £750m.

The latest sum was added as complaint volumes rose to 13,000 per week ahead of an industry deadline of August 2019.

Overall, it has now taken charges amounting to £19.4bn over the cost of compensating customers for the mis-selling scandal.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said the bank's results were slightly short of expectations but that executives were doing a good job of restoring its solid pre-crisis reputation.

However, he added that there were "clear reasons for not getting carried away".

"Lloyds' domestic focus leaves it particularly sensitive to the eventual outcome from a Brexit process which is still mired in uncertainty," Mr Mould said.

"If a no-deal outcome were to lead to a slump in the economy then this could result in an increase in bad debts with the business arguably even more exposed following its acquisition of credit card business MBNA in 2017."

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