NatWest returns to profit after releasing cash for bad loans

LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - British lender NatWest returned to profit in the first quarter of 2021 after joining rivals in releasing some of the cash it had set aside to cover expected bad loans due to the pandemic.

The state-backed bank on Thursday reported a pre-tax profit of 946 million pounds ($1.32 billion) for the first three months of the year, ahead of an average of analyst forecasts of 536 million pounds. The bank made a 519 million pound pre-tax profit in the same period the prior year.

Like HSBC and Lloyds, NatWest’s profits were boosted by a net impairment release, of 102 million pounds. Analysts had forecast an extra charge of 251 million pounds.

The bank - which remains 60% taxpayer-owned following a government bailout in the 2007-09 financial crisis - had slumped to a 351 million pound pre-tax loss in 2020. ($1 = 0.7165 pounds) (Reporting by Iain Withers, Editing by Anna Irrera)