The Great Debate UK

A reality check from Standard & Poor’s

May 21, 2009

REUTERS– Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Standard & Poor’s could have chosen a better day to kick the British economy, by placing the UK onto “negative outlook”, the usual precursor to a downgrade of S&P’s rating of an issuer’s debt.

Lloyds’ Blank cheque

May 18, 2009

REUTERS- Margaret Doyle is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are her own –

Sir Victor’s Blank cheque has finally bounced. Drawn on the Bank of Gordon, it looked like a dodgy piece of paper from the start, and now it has been sent back, marked “Refer to Drawer”.
Shares in Lloyds Banking Group rose in relief that someone, anyone, has finally agreed to take the rap for the disastrous takeover of HBoS, at the behest of the UK government, during last year’s financial panic.
Dazzled by the prospect of a market position in the UK which the competition authorities would never have allowed in normal times, Blank and his chief executive Eric Daniels failed to look their gift horse in the mouth, and discovered it was really a broken-down old nag.
The acquisition obscured the fact that the Black Horse itself was hardly in shape, and even without the handicap of HBoS, would almost certainly have been obliged to limp to the government for help. That is as much Daniels’ fault as Blank’s, and he will have to pay once a new chairman has been found.
This will not be easy. It would surely be too venal, even for this government, to impose finance minister Alistair Darling on the suffering shareholders, once he finds himself out of a job next year.
Lord Sandy Leitch, the Labour luvvie elevated to deputy chairman at the weekend, might fancy his chances, but his background is in insurance. The fashion for bank chairman who know nothing about banking has, mercifully, been blown away by the crisis.
More sensibly, Lord Mervyn Davies seems to have little to do since he quit Standard Chartered Bank <STAN.L> for the administration, while Doug Flint from HSBC would be a fine, and popular choice as chief executive if he could face the challenge.  He’s a Scot, which would also play well in the Brown bunker.
However, John Kingman, the civil servant in charge of UK Financial Investments, the government’s fig leaf covering its 43 percent stake in the bank, had signally failed to endorse Blank’s re-election at the forthcoming annual meeting. Perhaps he is showing signs of independence after all.
Philip Hampton, who was ousted as finance director from Lloyds five years ago for urging a cut in the dividend, would have been the ideal candidate. Unfortunately, he was tapped to chair RBS last January.

The causes of the crash

May 15, 2009

philip-boothhighres3- Philip Booth is editorial and programme director at the Institute of Economic Affairs. He is editor of “Verdict on the Crash,” a new book available from the IEA. His opinions are his own. -

The quantitative easing conundrum

May 13, 2009

adriankidd2- Adrian Kidd is financial planner at Unleash Advice. He was voted 50th Most Influential IFA in the UK by Professional Adviser magazine 2008. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Budget boost for savers

April 24, 2009

fay

–Fay Goddard is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society. The opinions expressed are her own.–

Part-paid gilts should return

April 23, 2009

REUTERS– Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) – The UK Government needs to raise four billion pounds a week, every week, in the financial year to next April, to bridge the gap between its tax income and its spending.

Darling gambles with Britain’s credit

April 23, 2009

REUTERS– Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. Christopher Fildes is a guest columnist. The opinions expressed are their own –

Apocalypse Now: A return to high borrowing, high taxes and weak growth

April 22, 2009

gerard-3x4

–Gerard Lyons is chief economist at Standard Chartered. Any opinions expressed are his own. –