By Max Clarke

Since the release of its Interim Management Statement on 2 November 2010, the Group has seen a further significant deterioration in market conditions in the Republic of Ireland, with concerns over the country’s fiscal position leading ultimately to the approval of its application for EU-IMF financial support on 21 November. Market sentiment has continued to be negatively affected by uncertainty about the political situation and about the economic impact of the austerity measures introduced in the Irish Budget of 7 December.

As a result, we are concerned that any economic recovery in the Republic of Ireland may take longer to achieve, and that asset prices will remain depressed for longer, than previously anticipated. While the Board will continue to review the status of the Irish portfolio as the Group prepares its year end accounts, it believes that the recent significant deterioration in the Irish market will affect the timing and level of value realisation from this portfolio.

Therefore, the Board anticipates that, compared to 30 June 2010, approximately a further 10 per cent of the £26.7 billion Irish portfolio will become impaired by the 2010 year end. Furthermore, the Board believes that it is prudent to increase the level of provisions against the portfolio, and currently anticipates an increase in the impairment charge relating to Irish exposures for the full year 2010 to approximately £4.3 billion on a combined businesses basis. This would result in an increase in provisions as a percentage of impaired Irish loans to approximately 54 per cent at the 2010 year end.