Friday 14 November 2008

Let's have a look at what we've learned

Respice, Prospice I say, mainly because sic transit gloria ...

So let's look at the evidence so far:

HBoS Chief Executive Andy Hornby is in line for a £60,000 a month (£720,000 a year - not bad kelly if you can get it) consultancy with Lloyds TSB if the merger goes through.

The merger could result in 60,000 job losses (although the Unite trade union seemed happy enough with the deal!) Jobs in the banking sector tend to have a higher salary than the average salary, so the impact on Edinburgh's economy, and therefore Scotland's economy, could be pretty painful.

A former director of Lloyds TSB is being moved in to run the company that Gordon Brown's Government has set up to administer the public stake in the banks.

There will be no place for the Scottish bankers in the new bank if the deal goes ahead.

Gordon Brown is insistent that the deal goes ahead.

There has been plenty of other interest in HBoS.

Concerns that HBoS directors were not acting properly has already been expressed.

That would be those directors who have admitted they were running this financial institution more like a stall in a flea market.

Many commentators are now calling for HBoS directors to go.

The Economist magazine has said the deal should be called off.

As has the Financial Times.

Lloyds TSB reckons it can make £1.5 billion in synergies.

HBoS is selling its Australian assets - giving the bank an immediate funding benefit of £8 billion, reducing its dependence on the Government bail-out. The deal was done in early October (subject to regulator approval) - with the backing of Lloyds TSB at a time when L-TSB valued HBoS at only £12.2 bn in total. That offer has subsequently been reviewed, of course, and with L-TSB's share price falling to around half of what it was at the time and the offer being amended to three quarters or so of the original offer, L-TSB is now valuing HBoS at around £4.5 bn.

We've had some of the best-known banking names in Scotland weighing in to say the Lloyds TSB deal is mince.

We've had the Chief Executive of the Financial Services Authority saying that there is no need for this deal to go through - that HBoS can continue to stand on its own.

We've had the OFT saying that the merger would be damaging.

There are indications that L-TSB is in this deal to strip the assets.

We know that L-TSB is already ignoring the requirement from the Treasury to forego bonus payments.

We know that Victor Blank and his troops at L-TSB were eyeing up HBoS two years ago:
Blank insists the two sides first talked two years ago but threw in the towel because competition issues would almost certainly have blocked the ambitious deal

All he needed, of course, was the permission of his mates:
Blank's political tentacles extend not just to Gordon and Sarah Brown, whom he calls his friends, but to Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair, and also to Sir John Major, the former Conservative prime minister whose friendship caused some controversy in Labour ranks when Blank was chairman of the publisher Trinity Mirror.

This wasn't the first time that Brown's Government gave preferential treatment to Blank's bank, though. L-TSB got first dabs on the Northern Rock mortgages held by that bank - after it had been nationalised.

When the deal was first mooted, L-TSB was seeking to smooth the path by promising to keep jobs in Scotland - not what Gordon Brown was saying to workers in Halifax, right enough.

There was also speculation that the 'leak' of the news of the merger which forced the pace was because other institutions were about to lend support which would have scuppered the need to waive the regulations on takeovers.

We know that the Government bail-out amounts to the equivalent of 2.5% of HBoS assets and 2.4% of L-TSB assets but that the amounts are massively different if we look at Tier 1 assets where L-TSB comes in as needing around a 60% bail-out while HBoS is down about 50%. That's for the 13th October Government announcement.

We know that HBoS raised another £2.4 bn in private money through a 2-year bond issue on the 29th of October - the same day that Darling said that the FSA could re-assess the deal if the merger didn't go ahead.

The truth, my dear, is out there - and it was published by Lloyds TSB in its circular to shareholders on the 3rd of November when it admitted that if the merger didn't go ahead L-TSB would be left £7 bn short of what it needs to keep going - even with the money it has already secured from the Government:

If the Acquisition and Placing and Open Offer do not complete, HM Treasury has stated that it would expect Lloyds TSB to take appropriate action to strengthen its capital position. The FSA has advised Lloyds TSB that if the Acquisition were not to occur, it would require Lloyds TSB to raise £7 billion of additional capital, made up of £5 billion of Core Tier 1 equity and £2 billion of Tier 1 instruments. Whilst Lloyds TSB would be able to seek to raise such additional new capital in the public markets, there can be no certainty that Lloyds TSB would be able to successfully raise such capital or as to the terms on which such capital could be raised, including the terms of
any participation by HM Treasury in any such capital raising, or as to whether any such fundraising would be on a pre-emptive basis.

There you have it - the truth is that it is Lloyds TSB which is bust according to the Financial Services Authority and that HBoS is 'bullet-proof' according to the Chief Executive of that body.

Don't let them grind you down, but do take a wee look at this website.


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