The Banks’ Real Results: Barclays PLC (ADR) (BCS), Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (ADR) (RBS)

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LONDON – Are you perplexed by the banks’ results? Suspicious of big improvements in “adjusted,” “underlying,” and “managed” performance when tucked away in the small print are large statutory losses? Join the club.

So last quarter, I decided to rigorously categorize the banks’ adjustments between underlying and statutory profit. I identified one-off exceptional items, costs of litigation over PPI and LIBOR, etc., and fair value adjustments that arise from accounting technicalities.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (ADR) (NYSE:RBS)If you’re interested, you can read more about the methodology here, and see the detailed analysis in this table:

Lloyds RBS Barclays (NYSE:BCS)
2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011
Underlying Profit 2,607 638 3,462 1,824 7,048 5,590
Exceptional Items 840 (435) (1,787) (4,078) 227 (1,419)
Litigation (4,225) (3,375) (2,191) (850) (2,450) (1,000)
Fair Value Adjustments 208 (370) (4,649) 1,914 (4,579) 2,708
Statutory Profit (570) (3,542) (5,165) (1,190) 246 5,879

The bottom line
But you can skip to this table that summarizes the results:

Lloyds RBS Barclays
2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011
Underlying Profit 2,607 638 3,462 1,824 7,048 5,590
Statutory Profit Before Fair Value Adjustments (778) (3,172) (516) (3,104) 4,825 3,171

The underlying profit shows the results as the banks would like you to see them, and may be a better indicator of future performance. The bottom line is what actually happened, adjusted to eliminate misleading accounting technicalities.

Both measures show significant improvement over last year. On the warts-and-all measure, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (ADR) (NYSE:RBS) have made big reductions in losses, while Barclays PLC (ADR) (NYSE:BCS) enjoyed a muscular 52% rise in profits.

Lloyds Banking Group PLC (ADR) (NYSE:LYG)
Lloyds’ management sounded bullish. The bank is ahead of its transformation plan, reducing costs by 5%, two years ahead of target, and selling over 40 billion pounds of distressed assets in 2012 against a plan of 25 billion pounds.

With a concentration on U.K. retail and commercial banking, Lloyds has the lowest risk business model of the three banks, but one wholly dependent on the U.K. economy. That’s not a great short-term bet, but the long-term trajectory is upwards.

With the heavy lifting on its transformation nearly complete and PPI provisioning at an end, Lloyds shares are trading at 95% of tangible net asset value (TNAV). The prospect of a resumed dividend will give them their next big push.

Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (ADR) (NYSE:RBS)
RBS’s results announcement was also confident, predicting 2013 to be the last big year of restructuring. In 2012, it pulled off the flotation of Direct Line and shed over 10% of risk assets. As with Lloyds, the EU-mandated sale of branches stalled.

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