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Rock: no new bidders

Robert Peston | 07:26 UK time, Thursday, 31 January 2008

Here’s some disappointing news for the Northern Rock, its shareholders, the Treasury and taxpayers.

The Rock and the Treasury had expected there would be fresh bidding interest for the battered bank, sparked by the Treasury’s promise of financial support to Northern Rock for at least five years.

Northern RockThe Treasury’s proposal to guarantee up to £40bn of new bonds to be issued by the Rock surely transformed any Rock rescue deal from no-hoper to sale of the century.

The world’s banks and financial institutions were bound to trample each other in the rush to obtain a piece of the action – because the Rock is probably now the only retail bank in the world which can be completely confident of its funding for years to come.

No such luck.

Not a single new potential rescuer has emerged.

In fact, if anything the outlook is a bit gloomier than it was - because one of the groups still technically in the game, the management of the Rock itself, is struggling to raise the requisite amount of equity.

That leaves just two serious players: Olivant and the consortium led by Virgin.

And they have just three days left to submit their definitive offers.

But why does the Rock remain so unloved and unwanted, even after the Treasury has stuffed it with readies?

Partly because, as I pointed out in an earlier blog, the Treasury is not being quite as generous as it seems – in that it’s understandably demanding that any future losses in the special purpose vehicle issuing the bonds would fall first on the Rock, its rescuer and shareholders before hurting taxpayers.

Also there was not a lot of time available for any potential new bidder to do its homework before the deadline.

However what the emptiness of the auction-hall really tells you is that most of the world’s financial institutions are very anxious beasts at the moment.

This is not the time to embark on new takeover adventures, they feel, but to conserve capital and batten down the hatches.

Taking over a £100bn mortgage bank when the economy is turning down doesn’t feel quite right to them, however attractive the terms.

It’s all particularly nerve-wracking for the prime minister, Gordon Brown.

He insisted on the bond-solution as an alternative to nationalisation.

In doing so, he took a big political and financial risk.

So if the Rock were yet to be nationalised – and that’s not impossible – he would have quite a lot of explaining to do.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 07:51 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Dennis wrote:

Given the endless political meddlings in Education, the Railways, the NHS etc it surprises me that anyone can be found to bid for a "nationalised" bank and hardly surprising that a conservative bank like Lloyds TSB has not reemerged as a potential bidder.

Wherever politicians get involved in something there are problems of direction. I certainly won't be investing in "The Rock".

  • 2.
  • At 08:16 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Steve wrote:

So whilst we are being put on the hook for billions of pounds in a panicked attempt to prevent the financial system imploding under the weight of its own greed, British science is quietly being smothered. The UK astronomy and space science budget shortfall is a puny £80 million, caused not by scientists but by accountants. The resulting cuts deny us access to world class facilities whose construction we have already paid for. Rather than save them and the hundreds of researchers living near the poverty line who depend on these funds, the government prefers to print money and hand it to its well-connected city friends. Which do _you_ think is the better investment for the future of the country?

  • 3.
  • At 08:55 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • David Simmons wrote:

Chickens - especially in these 'free-range-friendly' days - have this annoying habit of coming home to roost...

  • 4.
  • At 09:00 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Tony Kieran wrote:

The analysis seems good. Keep it up.

  • 5.
  • At 09:05 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Lindsay Allen wrote:

Existing financial institutions may well feel that in a softening property market with decreasing new mortgage volumes their best strategy is to conserve their own resources and let a competitor die. Internal investment looks more productive than saving a business with a failed business model and questionable loan book, particularly with the potential for interference from the Treasury.

  • 6.
  • At 09:12 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Greg Kingston wrote:

Gordon Brown might indeed have a lot of explaining to do, but the public will never get to hear of it.

Propping up the Rock was amongst other things supposed to shore up confidence in the banking system. Instead quite the opposite has happened due the bungled handling of it and other events, the most recent being distinctly Gallic but nevertheless apparently identified 12 months earlier by the SG risk management team.

Unfortunately yet further evidence that the Rock should have been allowed to collapse and fall into administration. Few mortgage holders and depositers would have ultimately been affected, and the shareholders would learn a valuable lesson about investing in a business model that wasn't up to any significant stress.

Instead, experience is still the hardest tutor, but now the experience is of further government ineptitude.

  • 7.
  • At 10:34 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Hansom wrote:

It appears that whatever solution is offered or tired nothing seems to work. I think the sums of money involved are so huge the risk for anyone is just too big to take especially in this current financial climate. Anyone interested in buying this bank needs to raise a lot of funds, from a marketplace that already has the jitters because of inconsistent borrowing methods and bad business models, funds just not available. Further compounded by possible political interference in the future. Let a private firm take the risk not the taxpayer, or let it die a dignified death.
Keep the blog going it makes good reading, Regards, Chris H

  • 8.
  • At 10:51 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • john thomas wrote:

I would of thought that the pertinant question here is 'why does HMG need other potential buyers? what's wrong with the two they've got?'

As Mr Peston points out, there is a distinct unwillingness on the part of the rest of the world to get involved with bank take-overs... especially a failed bank. Furthermore who would want to get involved in any enterprise where the level of political meddling will be highly public and guaranteed to last atleast 5years.

And as an estate agent I can confirm that while NR's loan book may be good at the moment in terms of it's borrowers' willingness and ability to keep up their payments, the assets themselves (houses) are falling in value. Those who brought at the top of the market in the last two years could well find themselves entering negative equity this year depending on their LTV ratio. The buzz phrase now is not 'Buy to Let', but 'sell to rent'.

Intresting times we live in.

  • 9.
  • At 10:51 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • BY wrote:

Hi Robert,

I think you should read this article: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,23138218-36375,00.html

You posted an article on monoline insurers earlier this year and this should be interesting reading.

  • 10.
  • At 11:11 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Bryan wrote:

Gordon Brown is a truly hopeless prime-minister. As Blair's number two he was adequate riding on the back of the post 9-11 credit boom, but even then he was always absent when there were difficulties and decisions were required. UK plc is now adrift and heading towards the 'Rock' with no-one at the helm. Insisting on a bond solution when the bond market and rating agencies are hopelessly compromised -idiots!

  • 11.
  • At 11:12 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • phil wrote:

This saga is like 'The Sixth Sense'. NR is DEAD. It is just a festering mass of UK sub-prime.

The banking community has realised this. Branson is just enjoying posing as the white knight trying to rescue a British business. He's probably trying to work out what sort of bid he can make which he can be sure Brown WONT accept.

  • 12.
  • At 11:13 AM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • FR wrote:

With more monolines being downgraded last night, there must be panic in the financial institutions this morning. Who is going to pour money into a bank that already has almost unlimited liabilities, when the only backers are facing dire liquidity problems themselves?

The rest of our high street banks are in the same position as NR - they just haven't come clean yet, or are being told to keep schtum by an increasingly desperate .gov that is praying to avoid a systemic crash.

To think that we all thought global warming or nuclear armageddon would would finish our society - and here we are, facing the gravest threat ever - and it's all about MONEY.

We deserve what we get.

  • 13.
  • At 12:10 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Tony wrote:

Sorry to repeat myself but I still haven't heard how the business model is going to be fixed. Even the Select comittee report (an excellent read, BTW) agrees it was wrong, so whichever bank takes over the wreck will have to replace it.
How are they going to do that?
Rock's great expansion in recent years - its very success - was built on that business model so if that business practice cannot be continued what is the future for the rock, whoever owns it?
Effectively, anyone buying the rock would be just making an investment in old mortgages, not buying a viable business. They might as well just buy securities instead. At least they can balance the upside and downside themselves without being in a public-private partnership where the risks and rewards appear to be skewed against them.
And even if the rock is nationalised the same question surely needs to be answered.
Or have I missed something?

  • 14.
  • At 12:22 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • dr.james smith wrote:

There is a lot of downside to come yet.
It could be the end of this year before it is even in the open never mine cleared up.
I would not lend a bean against the Rocks loan book.
With Brown and Darling in charge who blames the financial companies for not wishing to be involved.

regards

  • 15.
  • At 12:41 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Daniel wrote:

Why can't NR be nationalised and then immediately be liquidated? The loan book can be sold, and retail depositors can be repaid.
What is the actual amount of retail deposits? What would be the exposure to the taxpayer, i.e. the difference between the value of the loan book and retail deposits?

  • 16.
  • At 01:15 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Charles wrote:

Do we know how many self-assessed or 100-120% mortgages, or those with 25+year terms NR has on its books? How does their loan book compare with the Halifax, for example, in terms of such ratios? The housing downside is approaching with it's usual sluggishness - prices softening and less being marketeted - if it does go seriously bad for a couple of years causing a real price drop will NR be hit by a greater percentage of defaulters than the rest? Do we know?

  • 17.
  • At 01:43 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Andy Wright wrote:

It will be interesting to see what a proven retailer could really do in the Finance Market - whilst other retailers have played at this I am sure that Virgin could make a difference.
If I was a Bank/BS I wouldn't be too keen on letting Branston into my patch - he might find out just how soft the market is.

  • 18.
  • At 01:59 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • chris kiddy wrote:


All the reasons for not investing in or acquiring Northern Rock are precisely the reasons for taking a view contra to the herd. This must be the best opportunity in the financial sector in 2008 providing you get the timing right. I for one will be be buying into whoever buys the Rock confident that two years from now it will be a nice little earner.

Izthewhizz

  • 19.
  • At 02:03 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Gwyn Matthews wrote:

Why is this news? Property is a dead market right now and getting worse, the BBC website tells me that every day, so why would anyone want a bank focused on a non-market? What's the surprise there?
Every year for the last 4 years the broadsheets and other learned forcasters have predicted that property is over valued and to expect a 30+% correction in the next 18 months! The difference now is that the credit crunch gets a daily airing, there has been a very public run on a high street bank and this "30+%" figure has made headlines in the tabloids and the public now believe it. So why would a first time buyer, who rarely has a 10% deposit, sign up to an instant 20+% negative equity. Why would any responsible parent allow that. And a quarter % cut in rates just wont be enough to stimulate demand - for houses or anything else. And that, I think, is the real story.
Why can't you get your sources to tell us when the doom and gloom will lift or, how Brown et alia are going to restore confidence in the high street.

  • 20.
  • At 02:05 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • jonathan mercer wrote:

Looks like not only is Gordon Brown not an accountant, he's not much of an economist either. Wasn't he Chancellor of the Exchequer for a while? Oo-er!

  • 21.
  • At 02:19 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • John wrote:

Am I the only one old enough to remember Branson floating Virgin to retail investors back in the Thatcher years? There was Margaret Thatcher selling all this state subsidised junk at 80% of the asset porice to get it off the books and enriching millions of 'Sids' overnight in the process. Beardy spots this and decides to liberate some of that easy cash for himself. Of course what he did was to over-price the company by about 100%. Wallop. A million 'Sids' buy over-priced Virgin paper which he buys back at a fraction of the price years later.

Now he's going to do it to uas all again. Gordon Brown is desperate to get Northern Rock off the books. There it is reminding everybody what an incompetent ditherer he is. He's desperate to give it away.

And Beardie's just the man to take it off him along with every guarantee he can screw out of the lumbering incompetent to turn it into a one-way bet for billions for himself.

Then Gordon can get back to what he does best. Setting up a one-off exclusive interview where Andrew Marr bowls underarm questions approved in advance by Gordon Brown and tells everybody what a great and competent fellow he is. It's only a matter of time before he starts applauding himself after speeches like Breschnev and the rest of them used to.

Foot and mouth escapes from government lab? Nothing to do with me. Farmer miraculously reports symptoms in a timely fashion thus allowing outbreak to be contained? Look at my capable, competent leadership.

Millions of consumers over-borrow against their artificially over-priced asset, credit crunch, pending house price crash? What are you looking at me for? National debt balloons from 350bn to 550bn in ten years during a period of global economic boom. Collapsed bank underwritten and given away to Bearded spiv at our expense? Look at my decisive, capable and competent leadership.

The man is a fantasist.

  • 22.
  • At 02:23 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Richard wrote:

It is now the best part of 6 months since the problems at Northern Rock became known. What has happened since?

For a time the CEO who was responsible for the failure remained with the company. A £40m plus new HQ continues to be built. Much effort has been spent trying to sell the business either outright or through some public private finance initiative.

However little indication that any form of rationalisation has been undertaken to prepare the business for the new environment. Yet a phoenix company will undoubtedly
have a significant lower market share of a much reduced mortgage market. The lack of action is likely to mean it will be very much harder for many compononents of NR to survive. Does this all appear to be like a ditherers tea-party.

  • 23.
  • At 02:46 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Scamp wrote:

#2 Steve.....

You are of course completely correct. The UK Govt's priorities are completely wrong and have been for a long time.

However, even when UK science is successful and develops something with real commercial potential the chances of commercialising it here is extremely low because of course the same Govt "City chums" are rarely interested in providing financial support.

They are then rewarded for failing to support UK science with oodles of taxpayers cash to help save a bank with a failed business model..

You know this is wrong and I know this is wrong but I'm afraid the Govt don't care.

  • 24.
  • At 03:46 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • JDJ wrote:

John, post#21 - very funny - it made me laugh-out loud! I totally agree with your scathing assessment of GB's performance. I've noticed he also likes to take those "approved beforehand, underarm" questions from Fiona Phillips, GMTV too!

  • 25.
  • At 04:46 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • ken f wrote:

MORE VIEWS ON NORTHERN ROCK:-

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2008/01/john-moir-the-b.html

This basically backs up to the hilt what Robert has been saying for months!

  • 26.
  • At 04:58 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • SimpleStu wrote:

I take my hat off to Goldman Sachs, lauding their intellectual genius, and fully meriting their multi million pound mgt fees.
Their proposal to bundle up various levels of the NR debts and sell them off as quality bonds is revolutionary and inventive. The problems at NR were caused by the global credit crisis. What caused the crisis? The bundling up of dodgy debts and relabelling it as AAA quality bonds. All governments' and central banks' interventions have done is to interfere in the free markets, which would have melted down anyway. The meltdown will still inevitably happen to clean everything out, just it will have cost governments and banks billions to effectively add nothing. But the govs and banks could not have done anything in this instance, so my criticism at them is limited.

  • 27.
  • At 05:09 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • SensiblePencil wrote:

#19 - Gwyn

oh dear, doom and gloom again....

there won't be a 30% drop in house values, a correction maybe, a stagnant market yes. But people stay put, keep paying their mortgage, renew their promotional term every 2-5 years with some nice fees to pay. We all still have to live somewhere after all.

People most at risk with high LTVs are in it for the long haul anyway.

No huge profits like the last 10 years but the mortgage market still is huge. Small margins still mean big profits.

p.s. A contact informs me (do I sound like Robbie?) that the NR average LTV is 59%, and the tripartite know exactly what condition the loan book is in as they did a full audit long ago. The guarantees would not be in place otherwise...

  • 28.
  • At 06:22 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Pym Williamson wrote:

If you think the Northern Rock is going to cost us tax-payers a bundle, sit down before you open the following web pages. Called 'Sir Humphrey's Legacy' it's the iea update on the potential cost to the nation of the unfunded public pension liabilities, which currently stand at a cool £43,000 per household. Yes, that does read forty three thousand. This liability is usually published by the government annually. Perhaps it's not surprising thay haven't seen fit to publish for a couple of years.
Now this IS a frightening read!!
www.iea.org.uk/files/upld-release136pdf?.pdf

  • 29.
  • At 06:49 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Bragg wrote:

Interesting that among all the high flown finance ideas, no-one seems to have asked actually why the queues formed outside the NR Branches - which was the political no-no. OK the customers were absolutely right but why did the run start? There are, I think, three reasons.
First, politicians and other "experts" started to reassure folk by publicising the £35K compensation scheme but they caused alarm instead. "What good is that to me?" said the lady waiting at Golders Green "I've got £750K saved here and I thought it was safe!"
Second, politicians kept on saying how safe it was - and surprise, surprise we didn't believe them.
And third, the NR website went down. These days that's the equivalent of closing the doors. What are the guidelines issued to banks on the reserve capacity of their internet sites? what percenatge of their customers are they required to handle simultaneously? Who issues the guidance? BoE or FSA or BBA?

  • 30.
  • At 07:02 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • m.dowsett wrote:

The NR should cancel mortgage payers repayment penalties and let their customers deal with other banks,this will eventually save taxpayers money.

  • 31.
  • At 08:19 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Idiot wrote:

I feel I have to post a comment on this blog becuase I can't believe how many people on here are talking utter rubbish. The Northern Rock is a sound, viable, solvent bank. What the british press and media forgets to mention are the good things that have happened since last September when the run on the bank was hyped up by the media. In the 6 months previous to last Sept there were apprx 13 financial institutions who resorted to the BoE for funding, but this wasn't realeased in the press. So N Rock were not the first and in the current climate certainly won't be the last bank to ask the BoE for assistance. But if there are anymore in the future it can be dealt with secretly as it used to be, this is quite obviously to aviod this kind of situation happening again.

I can confirm that the Rocks mortgage book is of a fantastic asset quality, with arrears on the 100%+ mortgage book running at less than half of industry average for this type of loan. Other types of mortgage ie., Buy To let etc., are also of a fantastic quality. The media only seem to want to report on the bad news because this makes for good news in their eyes. Nr sold a mortgage book at a £50 million premium two weeks ago and this is when other instutions are securitising mortgage books at 20 % below their worth on average, so doesn't this tell everyone what quality the loan book is? Also what the media failed to mention was that this only represented 2% of the total mortgage book so all you mathematicians out there work that one out and than compare it to the amount the BoE credit line stands at

  • 32.
  • At 09:08 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Rude Boy wrote:

NR's new HQ is part of a joint venture with other developers and Sunderland Council. A condition of the development was to fund major road construction. Is the taxpayer now going to be liable for this as well as keeping NR afloat?
No doubt NR's bidders will not see road construction as being in their remit.~~

  • 33.
  • At 09:16 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Old Nick wrote:

Best way to get the dithering fantasists in Westminster to stop believing their own spin and rehetoric and to get them to focus their minds on the problem in hand would be to dress a few lamposts with some shiny new piano wire.
If for no other reason than to " ... encourager les autres..."
250 years since Byng and 'les autres' need some reminding.

  • 34.
  • At 09:46 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • John Constable wrote:

Kaletsky in todays Times points out the rational business solution to NR i.e. take it into public ownership, pay out the depositors immediately and over the remaining years run down the mortgage book.

Furthermore, he points out that this has not happened yet primarily for political reasons.

I am fairly sure it will come to this in the end but Robert is mistaken if he thinks that Brown will have trouble explaining it.

These top-flight politicians are masters of wriggling out of tight corners and Brown will have very little trouble getting out of this one.

  • 35.
  • At 10:52 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Scamp wrote:

So Branson trip to China was worth it then.

  • 36.
  • At 10:52 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • scunner wrote:

At last - a journalist has seen through all the rubbish. Not Mr P., sadly, but Tim Congdon in the FT -
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/472407fe-d017-11dc-9309-0000779fd2ac.html

Misrepresentation in the media has been a curse on policymakers’ attempts to resolve the Northern Rock affair. A particularly disturbing illustration has been the recurrent use of the phrase “taxpayers’ money” to describe the Bank of England’s financial involvement with Northern Rock.

In the more extreme versions the government is said to have directed “money” to “City bankers” at the expense of resources that could have been used in education or health. Northern Rock is stigmatised as a private sector black hole into which public sector expenditure is being poured. The throwaway line is: “If the state can give £25bn to Northern Rock shareholders, why can’t it afford a pay rise for teachers of more than 2.3 per cent?”

Nationalisation under workers' control and generous compensation for small shareholders would be the best solution for all parties.

robert - dont you think so - the deal was already done on their (Brown + Branson) way to Chindia?

  • 39.
  • At 12:42 PM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Adam wrote:

Perhaps the dearth of potential bidders is due to that the fact the NR's £100bn mortgage book is not so of such 'prime' quality.
Just consider the few facts (Source: Granite bond sale prospectus dated January 2005)
- Two thirds of the mortgages were taken out in 2006 and 2007, ie near or at the peak of the housing market
- 50% all mortgages are for a LTV ratio of over 80%, thus exposing a lot of NR mortgagees to negative equity should house prices fall sharply.
- 12.5% of mortgages are secured on flats, whose prices are now dropping sharply in many towns and cities.
No wonder then ......

  • 40.
  • At 01:23 PM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Mike wrote:

Given that Virgin have yet to show any sign of "better that the others" at the trains and are truely out of touch with reality with Virgin Media, on what grounds do people think that Virgin can provide a fairytale happy ending to Northern Rock ?

  • 41.
  • At 02:21 PM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

The only thing that's hard to understand is why there are two interests in Northern Rock instead of none at all. What do you get when you by a bank? Assets? Northern Rock doesn't have any, all it has is an unknown pile of unpaid debts and worthless mortgages. Skilled employees? Northern Rock is staffed by incompetent bankers who were paid high salaries but didn't do even the most elementary due dilligence on their jobs, just like countless other overpaid incompetent bankers around the world. They're the ones who got Northern Rock into the mess they are in. Loyal cutomers? Who in his right mind would open an account to put money in such a bank especially when there is no government guarantor such as the Americans have with FDIC to protect depositors from loss when banks fail? Name recognition? Norhtern Rock's name is synonymous with failure and incompetence. Norhtern Rock has nothing of value to sell, why should anyone be surprised there's no great interest in someone wanting to buy it. Whatever offer it gets, it should grab before the buyer comes to his senses.

  • 42.
  • At 08:30 PM on 01 Feb 2008,
  • demon wrote:

Mark # post 41, that has to be one of the most riduclous posts I've read on this subject.
Assets are worth over £100bn, mortgages are not worthless (I'm sure the thousands of mortgage customers would object to their mortgages being described as 'worthless'). As pointed out in post 31, NR recently sold part of it's loan book for a £50m premium, so work that one out.
I also suggest you walk around the North East declaring the 6000 skilled employees are a bunch of incompetent bankers, and see what reaction you get. If you knew anything about this subject then you'd realise that NR employees are the envy of it's competitors, even The Telegraph admitted that one!
The business model was flawed and most of those responsible for that have fallen on their swords, the remaining staff are the ones who carried out their instructions with huge success.
As for customers, NR currently offers the highest savings rate I can find anywhere for a 1 year bond, do you honestly think the bank will be allowed to sink after so much money has been loaned by the Bank of England? Savings will be safe.
And the final point is to emphasise that NR has had a LOAN and it will be paid back. It is NOT a gift or a handout, so could all those moaning about why this 'taxpayers' money' can't be used for other public services please remember that point?

  • 43.
  • At 07:39 AM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • Danny wrote:

#42, NR's business model was to securitise it's mortgages so those "assets" aren't available to the government nor are their cashflows.

It is a sign of weakness that their savings rates are so high because it means they need to put them up to attract savers.

The loan is a junior subordinated debt which means we the taxpayer are last in line before shareholders. So what we should be looking at is the dross of NR's book because the good stuff is long out of reach of us and to cap it all we are getting a little bit above base. If you really think that is a fantastic deal, I'd love to borrow some money off you.

  • 44.
  • At 08:02 AM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • Dee wrote:

Robert,

To return to my previous comments, we the taxpayers do not have any information as to the strength or otherwise of the assets that are being guaranteed by us.
It is apparent from the responses on this blog and others that an awful lot of "tosh" is being written.

Could someone (how about you?) give us the facts about the mortgage book of Northern Rock and the terms of the securitisation of assets in the Granite funds. The Government advisers Goldman Sachs surely have done an Audit (they've been paid enough), it's time we knew exactly what those of us who pay tax are being asked to underwrite.

  • 45.
  • At 08:27 AM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • KF wrote:

MARK #41#

Your post is the most rediculous i have ever heard.

I have you know i am an employee of northern rock.

WELL SAID TO POST #41# DEMON.

  • 46.
  • At 11:10 AM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • Simon Stephenson wrote:

We keep being told how highly skilled is the Northern Rock workforce, but I'd like to ask what is the precise nature of these skills?

If they have been trained to be innovative thinkers, capable of using intellect and logic to anticipate the next patterns of human behaviour, then there is a very good chance of their future prosperity.

If, on the other hand, their skills are limited to cutting edge exploitation of what was actually happening, then their only hope, really, is that the recent upheavals in the financial markets are just a blip, and that we'll soon return to business as usual.

  • 47.
  • At 12:01 PM on 02 Feb 2008,
  • Tony wrote:

Here's a radical idea.

Let's keep banks as they are - relatively free to borrow and lend as they please, offering enhanced returns that reflect the level of risk
their investors and customers are taking for that higher return. If they go bust, let them fail, and all involved loose their money.

Alongside the banks, for those who prefer less risk, let's have an alternative form of less risky more regulated institution that is not
allowed to borrow as much from the wholesale markets and therefore has to lend more carefully. We could call them, ermmm, Building Societies.


Robert, why not compare and contrast the risk and performance of Nationwide Building Society relative to the banks and highlight how not
ALL financial institutions have taken on excessive risk in order to provide excessive and unsustainable returns to shareholders?

Would we be in this position today if most mortgages were still provided by slightly more risk adverse building societies rather than banks?

  • 48.
  • At 05:30 PM on 03 Feb 2008,
  • Yummy Carol Kirkwood wrote:

Question: Why is the Government still hell-bent on soliciting bids for Northern Rock? The whole raison d'etre for inviting bidders for the bank was to find new owners who could raise the large amount of funding necessary to repay the Bank of Enland's emergency loans. But these emergency loans will be repaid by the £40bn bond issue, therefore totally negating the need for new owners to come in with large amounts of funding...

Answer: There is no need for the Government to continue with a forced sale of Northern Rock. The simple solution is to make their guarantee backing the £40bn bond issue contingent on Northern Rock not being allowed to pay out any dividends until at least, say, 75% (or even 100%, if you really insist) of these bonds have been redeemed. Northern Rock will be extremely profitable in the coming years, but it's only right that the majority of the guaranteed bonds should be repaid before the shareholders start receiving any of those profits. Northern Rock retains its stockmarket listing, and normal market forces come back into play instead of this artificial scenario we have at the moment. Robert Peston would also have to find something else to write about, so it really is win-win all round.

And so still these days nobody ever goes for the simple, common sense solution; instead, they insist on the sexy, complicated one. As they say, common sense is not so very common. Plus ca change...

  • 49.
  • At 05:32 PM on 04 Feb 2008,
  • Dick Jenkins wrote:

I have watched the debacle unfold of "what to do with the Northern Rock?" and it seems that the harder the government try to come up with a solution, the more difficult their position gets.

Isn't the best way to resolve this to stop all new lending, to guarantee the wholesale and retail funding of the Rock (as indeed the Government have done) and simply to get the loan made by the British taxpayer repaid as redemptions of the mortgage book naturally arise (billions of pounds per year). When the company comes back into a position where the balance of assets and liabilities is restored to that of a normal mortgage bank, then the range of solutions becomes much greater.

The British Taxpayer should be paid a premium for offering the Northern Rock this special facility, and you could always hasten mortgage redemptions by jacking up the SVR to the Rock's borrowers a little. (harsh, perhaps but it would be effective, as people will be incentivised to re-mortgage away from the Rock)

In other words, the Government should do less to find a "clever" solution and let the obvious solution take its course.

Why isn't this being done? I fear it's because the Governement feel the need to be seen to be "doing Something"

  • 50.
  • At 10:01 AM on 06 Feb 2008,
  • Ian Dixon wrote:

In simple terms banking regulators should avoid creating situations where speculative gains are personalised by those taking risks, but speculative losses are assumed by either governments,taxpayers or by central banks.

Internationally property speculation has created a number of bubbles - obviously in the USA, the UK and in Spain but also elsewhere.

Such bubbles inevitably come to an end - the party is over. In the UK house prices relatives to incomes inflated from a low factor (once time income 80 years ago) to an ever increasing high factor - now often between 10 and 30 times incomes. This is now obviously unsustainable to all without very high rates of inflation. Those who bought and borrowed, well they gained hugely. (that includes me)

Now the party is ending Central Banks and Governments appear to be taking extreme measures to circumvent the markets:
-bailing out banks in the UK and Spain
-reducing interest rates when inflation is rising
-even getting involved in insurance and guarantee arrangements

Each of these measures undermines stated aims of moderation of inflation and the operation of free capitalist markets.

Each of these measures takes money from some sectors of society (some people) and passes that money to a few.

The question is - is this really justified? Is the very existance of capitalism at threat? Is the risk and proximity of a global collapse so severe?

That collectively we (you and I, pensioners, savers, taxpayers, etc) should bail out banks and individuals who have acted unwisely, who have speculated with others money and have lost all?

Because that is what has been and seems to be happening right now - and what the ECB and the BOE will be partying with this week if they reduce interest rates.

  • 51.
  • At 02:04 AM on 14 Feb 2008,
  • Raymond Burke wrote:

Raymond is my name, i love the valued comments and different opinions posted by many ordinary scholars-people on your website, but here is the blogger of them all.
I believe the world is a changed place, i mean more so in the past 7 months or so than it has ever been in my entire lifetime, 37years + standard rate British VAT 54 years young app. i am, it my wit.

The first thing is the financial markets, it was simply an earthquake waiting to happen, i mean first in USA with serious strong after shocks aroud the entire world, this volatility is certainly not over yet, my guess is maybe things will have settled by January 2009. I can write to you then and see how far wrong i may be. Simply a debt issue for mostly ordinary decent people, and some ordinary people not so responsible with their own financial affairs, all this wrapped up in fancy, slick parcels if you like (banks) and posted all aroud the world. We all love banks. Lets be positive, it is a lesson for all decent ordinary hard working people in the UK and around the world. Most us here will survive, unfortunately some will be deeply burned and humilated, but that is that. Thats life.

I was watching BBBC tv tonight, as usual the news, Giving BBC a little credit,Australia's Prime Minister more credit, but the way the beeb headlined the Australian apology was good, the news editor needs promotion. My wit again. Most of all it certainly gives Australian people of all cultures a chance to be positive, more proud than ever before of themselves, in their so short history of mixed culture, it lets them all move on and tomorrow is another day. The Prime Minister has only been few months elected PM and he has certainly done himself and Australia proud. Can you imagine the cricket team they may have, never talk about the Rugby. I support England rugby and cricket for me is little boring.

Last comment is for our lovely USA cousins-brothers to read. To say sorry, (Australian PM in this context) is at times not easy, however if that man in the White- House, (yes i mean that man, whats his name?) knew how to say sorry, let alone mean it, he could have made the world a much better place than where we are all at today, in particular what i mean is to simply say sorry to the decent ordinary people mostly situate in some of the not so rich Arab countries of the middle East and one country of the far East (Afghanistan).If he could even act as to say "sorry" even at this late time of his career as boss of USA, (i know we can all read a liars face, his smirk), then for sure there never would have been such a high price to pay, i mean in the human suffering and in particular the loss off young service men and womans who lived mostly in the USA and in GB, never to mention the hurt and pain of their loved ones left behind. I on purpose never mentioned the Iraq people. I am the realist and it just a joke, "SORRY" in any context he will never grunt.
Never mind, change is coming, in the USA i mean, and i do not mind who becomes next USA President, but for sure the world will be a safer, happier place no matter which Democrat is elected, male or female. One thing is almost certain, first i do not bet, i gambled on football £1 when i was living in London when i was sixteen, i lost. I believe the Republican canditate will not win, at least i think the American people have learned a little from the past. But i could be wrong, they are Americans after all or are they, i wonder waht is the defination of an "American". USA people are ok and great people. I believe it will take the world another 15-20 years to return to the time the great USA was so respected by at least 90% or more of the people WORLDWIDE prior to that awful Act on Sept 11th. Hope i be alive then never mind be blogging, i will as i am positive man. We have to be positive, after all thats what living is all about. Please excuse my English grammar, you will have to Edit it. i never went much to school.

Raymond Burke

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