The future of RBS

 

           It was good news that at last RBS is making a profit. It was, unfortunately, a very small profit in relation to the massive amounts of capital employed, but it is a lot better than the run of losses we  long suffering taxpayer shareholders have got used to.  A bank with a balance sheet of £1.2 trillion needs to make £12bn a year just to provide a 1% return on total capital, or around  10% on shareholders capital assuming the conventional 10% ratio of shareholders funds to total assets. A return of £1.4bn in half a year is low.

          There is also a new Chief Executive in the wings, already working for the bank. What is needed now is a new strategy, a sense of direction and purpose, the promise of a better bank or banks to come. The Chancellor has set up a quick review of the future of RBS. Let me set out again the case for creating more banks from within the Group.

          RBS was never a successful conglomerate. The economies and scale and efficiency gains  from assembling a wide range of different banks never materialised. Instead the shaky financial structure and the overstretch the large rambling group imposed on the management brought the proto giant down. It had no time  to prove major  benefits from a series of mega mergers culminating in the ABN Amro one just before the crash. Some of us who opposed the mergers at the time could not see how a single management could weld these disparate banks and businesses into a more successful whole. Cross selling within a Group full of differing styles and practices is never easy, and prone to conflict of interest obstacles as well.

           The new team should have as its aims returning money to taxpayers and creating a better group of banks that can contribute to UK economic recovery.

            Selling Citizens, the US bank, is a relatively simple first task. It would release cash and management time, and allow a successful free standing US bank to make more progress under new ownership. A special capital  pay out could be made to RBS shareholders.

             Segregating Ulster Bank, the cause of many problems, would assist the recovery of the rest. Ulster Bank before it can be returned as a free standing competitor would need to be recapitalised, from some of the proceeds of other sales within the Group. It may also need some Treasury continuing guarantees or support as it works through its remaining difficult loans.

              The Investment bank has in the past been a  major contributor to RBS profits, or a source of profit to offset losses elsewhere. It is proving difficult to run a fully competitive successful Investment bank within the confines of public sector ownership of the Group. Investment banker remuneration and activity is difficult to justify if taxpayers stand behind it. There are two answers . One is to float it off separately. The other is to twin it with one of the clearing banks in the RBS group suitable for early sale. Perhaps adding it to Nat West, recreating the old County/Nat West relationship could be achieved. Delay in sorting out a future for the Investment bank is likely to damage it, as talent leaves to go elsewhere.

              Next we need to ask  how to sell the UK commercial banks within the Group. Management will probably favour keeping them together. Some progress has been made in rationalising the network and back offices. However, from the competition point of view it would be better to recreate Nat West, RBS and Coutts, for example, as independent brands with their own range of assets, liabilities, clients and services. This may take longer than a simple share sale, but would help promote more banking competition in the UK and woudl allow the establishment of more well financed competitor banks which can be sold off as soon as the work is done establishing them.

             The management may well be against. After all, they have spent time trying to find synergies and benefits from more integrated working. However, with the right leadership and incentives it might be possible to carry out this work relatively speedily and end up with a much stronger and better banking sector. If it is not, the best option is to drive harder for a more profitable remaining RBS and sell shares in it as soon as possible. Taxpayers owning banks, especially Investment banks, is not a good idea. One way or another we need to cut taxpayer risk and get some money back.

 

 

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50 Comments

  1. Leslie Singleton
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Personally, I cannot see the hurry to sell RBS but at least you didn’t give us the stuff about banks not lending. I don’t believe the population expects the banks to be keen to lend right now (acting rationally that is) though that may well be beginning to change. What is deplorable (and I was yesterday told by a clearer that all the banks now do this) is the cheap shot of having “Easy Saver” accounts automatically drop their interest rates after a year. Very clearly indeed, the banks gain from the proportion of people who do not bother to “refresh” their accounts at the end of the first year and stay forever more at the the lower rate, not to mention the artificially induced opportunity refreshing gives to the banks to try and sell some of their (hopeless because of the ridiculously low rates) other Savings products to customers forced to think about whether to renew or what.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 4, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

      Postscript–And again personally. I have no idea any more whether the Government and Economists in general want us to save or spend.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        Sensible economists want to to spend or invest wisely so not on green renewable tosh, hs2, electric cars, or most of the rest of the things governments tip money down the drain on. Try real things that give a good solid return on investment preferably in a country with a sensible government.

      • Ralph Musgrave
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        Leslie,

        Are you referring to saving money or saving up physical assets, like housing? Two completely different things. 95% of the general public and even some economists don’t appreciate the difference.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    From what I have seen in the UK their main activity has been to call in loans from good solid customers or put up margins and fees to (word left out ed) high levels in order to force them to repay (etc ed). One assumes they do this to achieve regulatory ratios while profiting hugely from the ones who put up with their new uncompetitive large charges and margins. The government shooting itself in the foot as usually as projects, jobs, developments are cancelled or postponed. Natwest/RBSI used to be by main lender over perhaps 20 years, I would never deal wih them again from choice.

    (asks about role of auditors ed)
    Had Cameron/Osborne sorted out RBSI 3 years ago the economy and growth would be in far better shape than the current mess it is in. Mind you he could have gone for less government, fewer regulations, cheap energy, lower taxes and a real small state vision then it really would be recovering strongly. Rather than as now pathetically handing his mess to Miliband and Unison.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I have been on this site since Mr Brown saved the World.
    Ever since you have been (quite rightly) saying that RBS ought to be split up and unloaded by the government.
    Ever since, it has been scary to see how people who have, very often, little knowledge of how to look after trillions of pounds are in charge of this monster.
    Good luck with your views!

  4. Martin
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Should we (in reality some governmental body) be looking at every take over to see what the implications are for the taxpayer? Company too big to be allowed to under? Too many redundancies and implications for welfare payments and other businesses? Now a multinational and it can afford expensive accountants to shuffle profits to appropriate tax havens with implications for tax revenues.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 4, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Martin–(wants to know why Little Chef was allowed to buy Happy Eater, and asks what has happened to the outlets of each since -ed)

    • Jerry
      Posted August 4, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      @Martin: That is oh so very 1970s…

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Also why on earth were the BoE and UK banking supervision so weak and inept that they allowed RBSI to buy ABN Amro, virtually blind and, more recently, they did not even pick up the Coop’s huge problems and when they were even going to buy more branches off Lloydstsb. Once again how can the over paid/pensioned staff of the bloated state sector be so inept and yet end up with huge salary & pensions or even in the House of Lords?

    The state is underwriting depositors in these banks after all, but seems not to have a clue what is going on in many of them leaving it credit rating agencies to find the black holes. Like insuring teenage motorist without knowing a thing about them.

    Meanwhile still no sensibly priced credit available to real business nor any real competition in the market place and good businesses being over charged or refused credit all over the place.

    And it seems now with the Archbishop’s (Church as an investor? ed) we still have banks charging 5000% APRs to the desperate and dim. Just why has government not acted one wonders at least in the Miliband shortly they might act on this. One small positive perhaps from Cameron’s dreadful failure to score in the open goal Brown presented to him. Perhaps Labour might sort out the huge excesses of the legal profession but I rather doubt it. Too many left Lawyer on the make From tax payers I imagine.

  6. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Would you agree that at the time it was necessary to own the RBS , even though now it prevents a more risky investment?
    The Ulster bank would surely struggle on its own and may benefit from an alliance with
    Citizens.
    Nat West started getting its customers into trouble including myself in the 1980’s so if the RBS and the Nat West can work together and make a profit good for that organisation , but very personally I prefer Barclays.
    Knowing what to invest in, is a talent I wish I had . I would certainly like to slay those who have slain me.

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted August 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      NO IT WAS ABSOLUTELY NOT! Brown and Darling simply drank the bankers Kool Aid in believing if they let the banks go down the Swannee the UK would (be in deep economic trouble-ed). A more competent leadership would have simply taken control of the parts of HBOS and RBS that move money around the economy to ensure that bills and wages were paid. In the meantime the bond and shareholders of the banks concerned should have been told to sort it out with the management in the courts.

      Remember as things stand to day those who, in a more just society, would be doing a lot of bird are free to pursue their careers elsewhere and still hold on to their pension entitlements. When you are waiting a long time to see the doctor or driving your kids a across town because you cannot get them into the local school, consider is their any connection between your current plight and the many billions committed to propping up these rotten carcasses?

      Regrettably if it happens again you can bet your last pound that their will be another bail out at the tax payers expense. Forget about the CoOp and its bail in, there is still plenty of systemic risk attached to its bigger rivals

      Reply The large sums wrongly committed to buying shares in the weak banks did not come from higher taxes taken out of taxpayers pockets, nor did this spending lead to any overall reduction in other public spending.

      • Nina Andreeva
        Posted August 5, 2013 at 5:25 am | Permalink

        JR then if its ok to print to save these dinosaurs, and Japan’s experience with its zombie banks suggests they will not be successfully floated off at a profit, why is it not ok to commit such vast sums to guarantee the construction of things that are socially useful like schools and hospitals instead of guaranteeing bad loans?

        Reply The government is crediting itself with interest from the QE and is extending guarantees to public capital projects as you are recommending

        • nina Andreeva
          Posted August 5, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

          Crediting itself with interest from QE, yes just like a banana republic

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted August 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Gordon Brown’s government paid way too high for the shares that they bought in RBS and Lloyds. A £66 billion purchase depreciated to £33 billion. That’s how taxpayers lost out. The shareholders would have suffered that loss instead, if only HM Government had carried out due diligence.

    • richard1
      Posted August 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      It was never necessary for the UK govt to own RBS. What could and should have happened was the supply of liquidity by the BoE to RBS (without publicity) with RBS’s board being instructed to sort out the mess. Measures they could have taken include cost-cutting, asset sales, and if need be a massive re-cap at the expense of shareholders and creditors, with the govt guaranteeing deposits up to a certain level.

      John Redwood was I think the only MP arguing along these lines at the time.

      It is interesting that it is now becoming widely accepted (except in the banking industry itself) that the key bank metric which needs to be controlled is leverage. It is also now accepted that future recaps need to be done at the expense of owners and creditors, not taxpayers.

      The Brown bailout model was a disaster, not just because of the £10bns wasted, but because of all the pernicious knock-on effects.

      • lifelogic
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Indeed.

        • Edward2
          Posted August 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

          Agreed 100% Richard
          Strange how those who complain most about the conduct of “bankers” now, were those who supported the huge bail out/nationalisation back then.
          As usual Mr Redwood who argued against Labour’s enormously expensive lame duck bail out at that time, has been proved correct yet again.

      • Ralph Musgrave
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        Leverage is a can of worms. George Osborne wants 3% (relatively risky, but profitable for banks). A hundred years ago, 10% was common. Martin Wolf wants about 20%. And advocates of full reserve banking (like me) want 100%.

        Let’s have a heated debate, as Mrs Merton used to say.

        • Richard1
          Posted August 4, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think any policy decision or regulation is needed on this. Once it is clear there is no govt backstop for creditors, the market will set sensible leverage levels. Would you put your money in a bank which would be bust after a 3% decline in asset values unless there was a govt guarantee?

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted August 5, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

            You’re expecting far too much from the great majority of the retail customers of banks. And they do see themselves mainly as “customers”, secondly in many cases as “savers”, but not really as “investors”. Ask a random sample of 100 people with current and savings accounts with High Street banks whether they are comfortable with the present leverage of the bank, and maybe 90 would first need an explanation of “leverage”, and maybe 9 would know what it meant but would have no idea of the present level let alone whether it was excessive. The idea that the market would constantly correct itself through a calm migration of retail customers from highly leveraged banks to banks with lower and safer leverage is fantasy, just as it’s fantasy to imagine that many individual customers of different supermarkets would be either willing or able to constantly check out their food safety standards and adjust their shopping habits accordingly. In both cases what happens if that almost all customers are blissfully unaware of the true situation which has developed until the story hits the mass media, when there is a panic reaction – a run on a bank, or many people refusing to buy beef or eggs or prepared meals or whatever from a particular shop or from any shop. This is why insurance of retail deposits should be regarded first and foremost simply as a consumer protection issue, not primarily as a matter of high finance or economics or monetary theory.

          • Ralph Musgrave
            Posted August 5, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

            Richard, I agree more or less. My only quibble is that I think depositors should be made to choose between two options. First they can have 100% safe accounts where NOTHING is done with their money, i.e. it’s not put at risk (e.g. the money could be lodged at the Bank of England). Second, they can opt to have their bank lend on their money, in which case depositors choose roughly speaking what is done with their money and those depositors carry the risk.

            There are many supporters of that system, e.g. Positive Money, Prof Richard Werner, Prof Laurence Kotlikoff. And for two other economics Profs who support something of that sort, see:

            http://www.hoover.org/news/daily-report/150171

            and

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-27/the-best-way-to-save-banking-is-to-kill-it.html

          • Bazman
            Posted August 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

            Richard1 Is living in dream world when he talks of banking customers assessing risks. Most peole just need a bank to live and whacking the customers for bankers failing is not acceptable and would not be accepted. There would quite rightly be civil unrest. Right wing nonsense like privatised utilities are.

          • Lindsay McDougall
            Posted August 7, 2013 at 12:31 am | Permalink

            Richard1 is absolutely right. It should be up to bank shareholders to control the level of risk that their board of directors takes. In the event of bank failure, the government’s job should be to ensure that shareholders take the big hit, then depositors and last of all taxpayers. The mechanism would be to send in an administrator to do due diligence in order to determine the bank’s net assets or liabilities.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted August 5, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

          My immediate reaction to the 10% figure was that it seemed too low, given that when an asset bubble has formed and then finally bursts market prices can drop by that much in a matter of days. Of course a prudent bank will hold a range of assets so that the sudden collapse in the value of one class will be diluted, but even so 10% seems too small a safety margin for when a big boom turns to bust.

          • Richard1
            Posted August 5, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

            Reply to your post above: it is perfectly possible consumers will be able to decide which banks are safe, just as they decide whether or not to take credit risk on other businesses. Remember also that control will be exercised by the bond markets which will determine the price of banks’ debt based on risk and return. It will be no different for depositors.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

            A rare occasion when I agree with Bazman, at least on it being a dream that ordinary customers would be either willing or able to assess the comparative risks of different banks. I’m not a financial ignoramus but I’m not sure that I could do it myself, even if I wanted to devote the time and energy to poring over the annual accounts of banks and building societies. Even the so-called professionals at the FSA, who were being paid to keep a constant eye on the banks and building societies, failed to anticipate the failure of Northern Rock followed later by other banks, so what hope for ordinary customers?

            Your suggestion that the customers of a bank should watch the market prices of its bonds is also unrealistic. There are millions of people who are perfectly competent at their own jobs and in other ways, but who still don’t have the faintest idea about bond markets.

            My own suggestion is different: that there should be deposit insurance, but not through the present financial industry insurance scheme, the FSCS, which is flawed because the levy paid by a bank bears no relation to the level of risk that it may fail. Instead retail deposit-takers should be required to take out commercial insurance on the deposits, with each bank and building society paying insurance premium rates which the commercial insurers assess as reflecting the risk that they may have to pay out, and with those premium rates being frequently updated and published in the mass media.

            It’s extraordinary that even now newspapers are continuing to publish tables of “Best Savings Accounts” without adding any information about risk.

          • Lindsay McDougall
            Posted August 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            In their desire to protect bank depositors, Denis and Bazman miss the main point, which is that Caveat Emptor should certainly apply to shareholders. That’s orthodox capitalism. I suspect that if Gordon Brown had told Fred the Shred to go away and conduct a fire sale, the depositors would have eventually been OK but the shareholders would have taken a massive hit.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted August 8, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

            Of course Caveat Emptor must apply to the shareholders, who have voluntarily taken on part ownership of the bank and who by definition will be the first to be wiped out if the bank goes bust. But in reality even the institutional investors with professional expertise can be slow to see that a bank is heading for disaster, so once again what hope is there for ordinary retail customers to see that in good time?

            My argument is that those many millions of ordinary retail customers should be treated as consumers and afforded consumer protection, not treated as financial wizards who should be able and willing to study the accounts of different retail deposit-takers and move their money from riskier to safer banks and building societies.

            But that consumer protection for retail depositors should not be provided at the expense of the taxpayer, and nor should well-run banks and building societies have to pay for the compensation given to depositors with a badly-run bank or building society when it fails, which is how the present FSCS works.

            Commercial insurance, with each retail deposit-taker paying to insure the deposits that it accepts, and the premium rate currently demanded by its insurers being widely publicised, seems a better way to go.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            Take a look at the number of PPI’s mis-sold as an example and how is the consumer supposed to know which banks are safe after the Libor rate and the credit agency farce? Get real Richard1 and stop having right wing fantasies about a banking system that is for the rich supported by the state. The consumer is to bear all as well as the taxpayer?

  7. oldtimer
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I am sure you are correct in thinking that RBS became a sprawling, unmanageable mess and that breaking it up into more manageable chunks is the sensible way forward. That was the fault of the management. But UK governments, especially Labour governments, also seem to favour the idea that bigger is better. Wilson and the IRC`s idea that merging the old Leyland Group with BMH is an example from a bygone age; Brown`s more recent promotion of the Lloyds takeover of failing banks is a more recent one. The process of breakup will, presumably, be compromised by the extent to which the back office services of the various constituent banking operations have been merged and whether market conditions are favourable to making disposals in whatever form is decided.

    • Mark
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure that those who suffered the computer failures that denied them access to their accounts for weeks last year in Ulster won’t regret the installation of a rather better back office.

  8. sm
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    A balance sheet of £1.2 trillion!

    That says it all.

    Do you think the Chinese would buy it for £1.2 trillion?

    Smoke and mirrors and rigged markets.

    Reply A balance sheet of £1.2tn does not mean the shares in the bank are worth £1.2tn

    • sm
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      I think every man and his dog appreciates that RBS is not worth 1.2 trillion.
      I think it implies it has assets and liabilities equal at £1.2 trillion.

      If interest rates were to rise by 1% what would that do to the a) the assets and b) the liabilities.

      Now surely this shows us that there is an inherent bias towards inflationary monetary policy. Particularly one which favours those closest to the benefits of the new money first.

      Now wonder why the senior public sector et all are all protected against inflationary effects in many subtle ways. Index linked pensions, defined benefits etc. If they were not i bet we would see some accountable control – i hesitate to use the word democratic in relation to the UK.

      The provision of central bank funding etc and the costs should be part of the general spending plans and needs to be voted on and debated in parliament against other competing and socially useful activities.

  9. MickC
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, the “big bang” of 1986 which was instituted by a Conservative government (which I voted for and supported) has proved to be utterly catastrophic.

    Overnight, insurance salesmen became “financial advisers” with the aura of professionalism but none of the responsibilities.

    The result was “mis-selling” (words left out ed) on an enormous scale, and the freeing of the “financial industry” to rape and pillage the financial assets of the country and its citizens.

    The “expertise” which we were told was the pride and unique skill of the City of London proved to be entirely illusory ( in some cases ed)-and has again cost the nation dear.

    The banks should be broken up-and true competition enforced, to the benefit of the customer.

    The present state of the financial “industry” is a disgrace of which the Conservative party should be thoroughly ashamed.

    However, instead of acting upon the recommendations of the Select Committee, this government is intent on continuing to allow the banks to destroy businesses and people.

    The voters are unlikely to be forgiving at the next election.

    Reply In recent years Financial Advisers have had to undergo training and new exams to qualify.

    • Richard1
      Posted August 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      I think this is a red herring. Big Bang was about the abolition of fixed commissions and the admission of foreign competition to the London stock exchange. It is difficult to see how either change could have been resisted. The problem was the explosion in the size of the banks’ balance sheets, driven by monetary policy and useless regulation, and the increase in bank leverage from c. 20x where it had been for several decades to c. 50x during the 2000s.

      We should keep the focus and the blame where it should lie – with Blair / Brown and the Labour govt. (Obviously also with foolish bank managements and useless regulators – but they get plenty of stick as it is. Its the Labour politicians who are trying to worm their way out of blame).

      • MickC
        Posted August 5, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        With respect, the point I was making was that a culture of professionalism (i.e. one where the clients interests were of some import) was replaced by one of snake oil salesmanship-but the clients were not told.

        And there was an inherent conflict of interest where the banks could actually both act for their clients-whilst at the same time act AGAINST them on their own behalf.

        Generally, if one instructs a professional in a matter, they cannot then act directly against the client-unless they are banks!

    • MickC
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

      I note the editing, which, happily does not destroy the sense of the piece.

      No doubt readers can work out another and more accurate word for “mis-selling”-and decide for themselves whether the skills of the City are illusory only in some cases.

      That it has taken 26 years for there to be meaningful(?) “training and exams” for “financial advisers” does itself demonstrate the power and greed of the financial industry.

      Reply It is Parliament – or the EU’s job – to decide how to regulate such an industry. Any delay in introducing a system you like is not down to “greed” by service providers. There are many honest and useful financial businesses in the UK

      • MickC
        Posted August 5, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        It is indeed Parliament’s job to decide how to regulate such businesses-but Parliament has become a rubber stamp for the Government of the day.

        And the Governments of whatever colour have been far too close to the financial industry. The banks lobbying is very effective.

        I’m also tempted to suggest you erroneously left out the word “not” as the third word of your last sentence.

        Regrettably, the Augean Stables remain uncleansed.

  10. Mike Wilson
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I’ll try posting here … I posted on the ‘Democracy’ thread the other day – the post appeared as ‘awaiting moderation’ – but it has never appeared. It is quite annoying spending 10 minutes making a few points only to have it not appear. If a post is not going to be shown I would have thought the courtesy of at least displaying something – ‘Mike Wilson, your post was not shown because you are an idiot’ – might be expected.

    Anyway, RBS. I would be interested to know what the long term affect on banking would have been if RBS and the others had been allowed to go to the wall – with deposits protected. I can’t help thinking bankers would be thinking long and hard about their role in our society and shareholders would think long and hard before every buying bank shares again.

    Meanwhile, Nationwide and others would now be running most current accounts.

    • Narrow shoulders
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      @mike wilson

      I have to agree with you here.

      The government guaranteed up £50 at the time which was ample for .ost needs. Had HM Govt taken over the clearing parts and paid out up to £50K there would have been small scale suffering and accountability called by those who lost to those who caused it.

  11. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    RBS shares are 322.5 pence as against the 500 pence that Gordon Brown paid for them. Lloyds shares are 73.73 pence, still within an ace of the government’s buy-in-price. [Source: i newspaper of Saturday 3rd August.]

    But then we have to remember that there has been 15% inflation in the interim, that it is normal to demand that returns on investment beat inflation, and that the current surge in shares prices generally is partly caused by a flood of easy money. Therefore, the charge that Gordon Brown’s government paid too high for the shares still stands.

    It’s not worth waiting for further appreciation of the shares before selling the Government’s stakes, because it may not happen.

  12. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    But what about this?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/10220948/Investors-warn-new-RBS-chief-executive-over-break-up-battle.html

    “Although the Government holds an 81pc stake in the bank, any vote on selling its assets would require a vote under related party transaction rules, meaning the Government’s shares could not be voted.”

    Sounds like a load of nonsense to me.

  13. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic, JR, in view of his incredibly foolish and highly damaging remarks as reported today, shouldn’t Michael Fallon be offering his resignation? If an executive in a private company behaved like that, wouldn’t he be told to clear his desk?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23565258

    “Friends of the Earth said Mr Fallon’s comments would “resonate across the UK and fuel more opposition to the government’s disastrous support for fracking”.”

    And no doubt they will resonate across the country, and reverberate, and be repeated with amplification to resonate and reverberate for many years to come.

    What an idiot.

    Reply I think Michael was trying to tease certain commentators/media rather than making a serious comment on fracking and its impact.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 5, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Yes, but when his words are quoted in years to come, as they will be, it will not be with the caveat “Of course he was only joking”.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted August 7, 2013 at 12:33 am | Permalink

        Remember Gerald Ratner?

  14. Nina Andreeva
    Posted August 5, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    The typical voter lives in a rectory with a drive eh? Mike I bet there where loads of such properties in Darlington when you were its MP? I thought Fallon was supposed to have been brought in to give Dave’s administration some gravitas? What with Howell’s comments about a desolate NE last week, you can really see the project of modernising the party is going well. If anything Cameron has managed to regress it back to around 1963 in that its being still led by Old Etonians with a purely bourgeois SE England outlook.

    Reply Many houses have attached garages with access drive to the garage – you don’t need to live in a Rectory to have the space to pull a car off the road for parking. As someone who has canvassed in many towns around the UK I find the pattern of semis, linked or detached homes with garages or car pull ins very common, north and south.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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