Phew! Due diligence done at last

August 5, 2009

Lloyds’ deal to buy HBOS was sealed in the time it takes to sup a few cocktails with Gordon Brown. But poring through the gung-ho mortgage lender’s books took nine whole months and many thousands of man hours.

Lloyds Banking Group on Wednesday admitted it had finally completed due diligence on HBOS, after agreeing to buy it in a shotgun marriage last September.

“Nine months after agreeing to purchase HBOS, it has finally completed its review of the assets at HBOS. This means … it has completed its due diligence of HBOS,” said Hank Celenti, analyst at Royal Bank of Canada.

Investors were cheered when the bank said bad debts had peaked in the first half, after it took a knife to the value of the HBOS property portfolio. H1 bad debts jumped five-fold to 13.4 billion pounds, with 80 percent due to HBOS legacy assets.

It had taken a prudent view to impairments, it said, helping its shares jump 13 percent. But the shares are still less than half their value before the deal, which many investors said was good for HBOS investors and the broader economy, but not for Lloyds shareholders.

Lloyds CEO Eric Daniels admitted in February his bank had conducted 5,000 man hours of due diligence under the hurried deal, which was brokered by UK government, and he would typically have put in 3-5 times that if he’d had more time.

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