& Bingley has finally been put out of its misery. After months of
cliff-hanging the government has been forced to nationalise the bank.
many respects the ‘rescue’ plan is a clone of the $700bn Paulson plan being
pushed through in the USA. The basic idea is that the good stuff is sold off to
the private sector while the taxpayer is lumbered with the bad debts, the
toxins. Socialism for the rich and the rigours of free enterprise for the rest
from being a dramatic incident in what is clearly an avalanche of disaster
sweeping through world capitalism, B & B is a case study in the stupidity
and recklessness of modern financial management. Never mind. They can walk away
from the wreckage and leave us with the bill. At least that’s how they’d like
it to happen. And New Labour is always happy to oblige them.
As we pointed out in an earlier article, (Bradford and Bingley collapse brings UK recession closer)
“B & B is the market leader in ‘buy to let’ mortgages. One of the features
of the housing bubble which has now burst is that people were buying houses,
not only to live in, but also to lease to other people. This of course tended
to push house prices even higher. ‘Buy to let’ was based on the assumption that
house prices would just keep on rising. In that case not only had the buyer
acquired an ever-appreciating asset, but they could also make enough money by
letting it out to pay the mortgage. Free money!
“When the housing bubble burst, the whole logic of ‘buy to
let’ went into reverse. Not only is the house price going to fall after the
deal has been struck, so the buyer is in effect stuck in negative equity, but
tenants are expecting to pay less rent, since they know house prices are headed
south. The ‘buy to let’ market, worth £120bn last year is now effectively dead
in the water. And of course all those people jumping ship from the housing
market will make the house price collapse that much worse.”
The other B & B specialism was self-certificated
mortgages. In other words you just strolled in to a Bradley & Bingley
branch and declared yourself to be of sound means and walked out with a
mortgage. They conducted no checks!
Clearly, even in terms of the tearaway twenty-first century
financiers, B & B was operating on the dodgy end of the banking market.
When the crisis burst and the house price bubble collapsed last year, their
number was up. Their death agony has been prolonged. Their shares were on the
slide. They declared a loss of £8m for the first four months of 2008, compared
with £108m profits they made in the same period last year. They needed a
So they went for a £400m rights issue. As we explained at
the time, “This means that shareholders are expected to reach in their pockets
and stump up for extra shares. Now ‘investors’ don’t really buy shares so they
can have further demands put upon their wallets. They expect to sit at home and
watch the dividends roll in and the shares going up. So a rights issue will
always hit existing share prices.”
In the existing atmosphere of near-panic, Bradford’s
existing shares plummeted. They finally got their £400m but only because
Treasury officials, desperate to avoid another banking collapse after Northern
Rock, went round twisting other bank’s arms behind their backs to cough up the
It didn’t work. £400m couldn’t save Bradford & Bingley.
We have to ask – will $700bn save the US banking system? Not necessarily. Not
if confidence continues to evaporate – as it rightly will. Not if house prices
continue to fall – which they certainly will. Not if the financial crisis
continues to impact on the real economy and on unemployment – which it definitely
The shares kept on falling. As Heather Connon pointed out,
it was a bargain waiting to be picked up. But in a crisis, nobody is thinking
about the rosy prospects in the distant future. They’re too busy panicking in
the here and now. “The buyers should be queuing up: Bradford & Bingley’s
value has plunged to less than £300m, a sixth of its value at the start of the
year and just a tenth of what it was worth this time two years ago…Yet last
year, Bradford & Bingley made more than £350m profit before tax – more,
that is, than its market value last week – and it has £40bn of mortgage loans
and £20bn of savings balances. Even allowing for the Armageddon that seems to
be breaking out in the housing market, that must surely be worth something?”
(Observer 13.07.08) The answer was ‘no’.
the vultures just wanted to make sure Bradford was dead before they swooped.
Last Friday shares were worth just 20p, despite a capital injection of £400m.
Spanish monster bank Santander will do well out of the death. They sweep up
£20bn in healthy deposit accounts and 200 high street branches. It’s a fire sale!
get £41bn in dodgy mortgages. We get the debts, the dross, the dregs. New
Labour hasn’t changed its spots. It’s not a matter of ideology. As Ben
Bernanke, boss of the Fed says, “There are no atheists in foxholes and no ideologues
in financial crises.” Whether it’s not intervening (as it did before) or
intervening (as it has over the weekend) the government is acting in the
interests of the bankers and the capitalist class, not the people who voted for
not over yet. There’s no time for a sigh of relief. The day nationalisation was
announced, the markets showed their displeasure with the $700bn bail-out by
continuing their slide. They want more money thrown at them! And Belgian bank
Fortis looks like the next one to go under.
the same old story – ‘socialism’ for the rich. We’re sick of paying for their
mistakes. The labour movement must commit itself to campaign to nationalise all
the banks, not just the loss makers, as part of the socialist transformation of