We get £2.3bn back from Lloyds
Far be it from me to spoil this government's quite astonishingly consistent run of bad news, but there is something mildly positive to say about taxpayers' massive investment in those bashed up banks.
On Monday, and barring an unexpected and improbable disaster, the Exchequer should see approximately £2.3bn returned of the capital it invested in Lloyds Banking Group last autumn.
Or to put it another way, we as taxpayers will get £2.3bn back. Hooray.
Now I know £2.3bn is peanuts in the context of the eyewatering £175bn the Treasury expects to borrow this year (and many economists believe the deterioration in the public finances will be even worse).
But as Tesco might put it, every billion helps.
When this repayment happens, the UK government will be the first government in the world to retrieve some of the cash that's been invested in banks to rescue them from collapse.
It's another sign that - as far as the banking system is concerned - we seem to have passed the moment of most extreme stress.
Here's why I can talk about the Lloyds prepayment as a racing certainty.
Lloyds has been raising £4bn from all its shareholders by selling them new shares, in order to redeem the £4bn of its preference shares held by the Treasury (and managed on the Treasury's behalf by UK Financial Investments).
However, because the Treasury owns 43.38% of Lloyds' ordinary shares, it will buy its pro-rata allocation of the new shares, at a cost of £1.7bn.
Also the Treasury promised that it would buy the remaining £2.3bn of new shares if other shareholders were to spurn the offer.
That said, there's no risk of it having to honour the promise. Other investors are certain to buy these new shares.
How do I know that? Well the new shares are priced at 38.43p, or 43% below the 67.8p market price of Lloyds' existing shares. So shareholders would only choose not to buy them if they were absolutely determined not to make money (I know many of our big investment institutions seem awfully talented at losing money, but it's not actually what they set out to do).
This is the maths: Lloyds is paying taxpayers £4bn in total, but £1.7bn of that is actually being provided by taxpayers (I know this is confusing, but stick with me); so the net repayment to taxpayers will be £2.3bn.
But it would be premature to crack open the bubbly, in that we are sitting on a stonking loss on our stake in Lloyds' ordinary shares.
The effective purchase price for taxpayers' 43% of Lloyds is 115p per share (or so), compared with a market price that is 41% lower.
So although it's splendid that we as taxpayers are reclaiming £2.3bn, we are still sitting on a £3.5bn loss on our holding of the ordinary shares.
It's just as well then that the Treasury is in no hurry to sell this stake - because it could take years for Lloyds's share price to rise comfortably above what we paid.
Mea culpa. I should have mentioned in the piece that a few small US banks have already repaid the bailout funds they received from the US government. But none of the substantial US banks have yet succeeded in doing so, although Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan are on course to do so.
It should also be said that Goldman, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan are in rather better shape than Lloyds.