Northern Rock seems to have had a fixed place in the news for the past year or so. Unfortunately, the advertising it’s been getting hasn’t been positive. The usual picture was one of a Northern Rock branch and a few hundred people queuing outside, ready to withdraw their savings.
In the financial crisis, the banking sector has been at the forefront of economic policy and billions of pounds of public money have been invested in banks simply to keep them afloat and encourage them to keep lending. But now the government, in a measure approved by the European Commission, is considering selliing part of Northern Rock, by splitting it into a ‘good bank’, which will be returned to the private sector, and a ‘bad bank’, which will have to remain nationalised. This bad bank would gradually run down its assets and eventually be liquidated. Similar plans are being considered for the part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group.
Northern Rock’s loan book will be cut from £100bn pre-crisis to just £20bn to ensure that a bank which enjoyed state support should not have “an unfair competitive advantage”. Savers with Northern Rock will find themselves in the ‘good’ bank, while mortgage customers with arrears and those who are regarded as risky, will be seen as ‘bad’ bank clients.
The buyers of these banks remain unknown. Tesco was considered to be a possible buyer of Northern Rock but has pulled out, with plans to build a new full-service bank itself. Established banks, such as Barclays, will not be allowed to make a purchase and the FSA has stated that standards will not be dropped to allow new competitors to enter the market, especially given that much of the banking crisis is due to poor standards and insufficient regulation. National Australia Bank, the owners of Yorkshire and Clydesdale, is a possible buyer, as too is Virgin Money, even though it would require new finance and possibly new partners. Some potential bidders may be ruled out by competition considerations. So let the games begin!
The following articles look at the banking situation and the possible developments.
Where Gordon Brown feared to tread, Kroes is ready to trample Telegraph, Alistair Osborne (28/10/09)
Lloyds eyes capital raising plans BBC News (29/10/09)
Tesco rules out Northern Rock takeover Guardian, Julia Finch (28/10/09)
EU approves Northern Rock split BBC News (28/10/09)
The Business Podcast: The break-up of Northern Rock Guardian (28/10/09)
Lloyds Banking share price could scupper offer SME Web, Roberta Murray (29/10/09)
Roll up, roll up, for the great bank sell off Independent, Richard Northedge (8/11/09)
Treasury says Northern Rock may lose savers as Government pulls out The Times, Francis Elliott and Suzy Jagger (5/11/09)
Union fears for 25,000 jobs as EU insists Lloyds and RBS must shed branches Guardian, Jill Treanor (3/11/09)
Decision time for Lloyds shareholders BBC News, Money Talk, Justin Urquhart Stewart (11/11/09)
The Business podcast: The break-up of Northern Rock Guardian (28/10/09)
Details of the European Commission ruling on the restructuring of Northern Rock can be found at:
State aid: Commission approves restructuring package for Northern Rock
- What started all the trouble at Northern Rock?
- What are the arguments (a) for and (b) against the break up of Northern Rock and the other banks that received state aid? Do you think the right decision has been made?
- The BBC News article ‘Lloyds eyes capital raising plans’ refers to 43% of Lloyds being owned by the tax payer. What does this mean and how has it happened?
- Why do you think Tesco has decided not to put in a bid to take over Northern Rock?
- Consider the potential bidders for these new ‘good’ and ‘bad’ banks. In each case, consider the (a) advantages and (b) disadvantages. Then, explain the type of take-over or merger this would be and whether there could be any competition considerations.
- One of the aims of recent developments in the banking sector is to increase competition. Why is this so important and how will it affect consumers and businesses?
The housing market has been very volatile over the past year or so. House prices crashed, but then appeared to stabilise. Since then, however, different sources have given very different opinions and predictions about future movements. According to Nationwide Building Society, house prices have increased by an average of £53 a day during September, but others suggest that they remain stable and that they may fall again in 2010.
Not only are house prices important to those buying and selling, but the state of the housing market is also crucial for the recovery of the economy. For example, the construction industry has suffered over the past year and, as of the 2nd October 2009, unemployment in this sector stood at 17.1%. As more and more workers lose their jobs, their disposable income falls and hence demand in the economy is affected. With the possibility of an election debate between the party leaders, many will be waiting to see what their strategies are to revitalise a struggling economy.
House prices rise an average of £53 a day’ Daily Record, Clinton Manning (3/10/09)
Mortgage approvals dip in August BBC News (29/9/09)
Construction contracts at slowest pace for seven months Construction News, Nick Whitten (5/5/09)
House sales ‘stalled’ in August BBC News (22/9/09)
Housing market needs ‘feel-good’ factor to recover City Wire, Nicholas Paler (26/6/09)
Double whammy for first-timers as prices stabilise and loans dry up Scotsman, Jeff Salway (3/10/09)
Head-to-head view on house prices BBC News, Kevin Peachey (27/8/09)
UK construction industry still contracting, says Cips Guardian, Kathryn Hopkins (2/10/09)
House prices see ‘slight decline’ BBC News (28/9/09)
House prices ‘back to 2008 level’ BBC News (2/10/09)
Construction unemployment rises to 17.1% HomeTown Sources (2/10/09)
House prices up – but so are insolvencies Management Today (2/10/09)
Financial shadow cast by city apartments BBC News (8/10/09)
For house price data see:
Nationwide House Prices
Halifax House Price Index from the Lloyds Banking Group
Housing Market and House Prices from the Department of Communites and Local Government
- Why are recent movements in the housing market going to be a problem for first-time buyers?
- The ‘Stamp duty holiday’ will soon come to an end. What do you think will be the impact on the demand for and supply of houses and hence equilibrium prices over the next 6 months?
- One of the reasons why house prices have stabilised is a lack of supply. How does this affect equilibrium prices?
- Why is the economy so affected by changes in house prices? Think about what happens when construction workers lose their jobs and how this affects aggregate demand. Then consider how the macroeconomy will be affected.
- When demand for houses increases, why do prices increase so rapidly? Consider elasticity.
All nations are interdependent and few have escaped the recent economic turmoil that began with the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market in America. Businesses have gone under; interest rates have been cut and then cut again; profits have fallen; unemployment has risen and expectations have remained gloomy.
But, what’s the latest? How is the British economy faring and what about the rest of the world? Some sources suggest that we are already in a recovery, whereas others suggest that the current downturn is not yet over. House prices recovered somewhat in July, but various sources suggest that they experienced their biggest fall in August. The following articles look at recent economic developments.
Job cuts at Vauxhall likely as GM agrees sale to Magna Telegraph (10/9/09)
A look at Economic developments around the globe The Associated Press (10/9/09)
BoE holds QE at 175 bln stg, rates at 0.5 pct Reuters (10/9/09)
Kesa’s UK recovery hit by European slowdown Times Online (10/9/09)
Top US banker criticises bonuses BBC News (9/9/09)
Austrian GDP contraction slowed in Q2 Reuters (10/9/09)
Europe and America’s economies to beat UK, OECD says Telegraph (4/9/09)
Britain will be behind rest of world in emerging from recession Times Online (3/9/09)
Bank of England holds rates at 0.5pc and QE at £175 bn The Telegraph (10/9/09)
- Do you think the evidence suggests that the outlook for the global economy is improving?
- Why will Britain probably take longer to recover from the recession than other major economies?
- What is the theory behind low interest rates helping the economic recovery?
- Which policies have the UK and other governments used to tackle this economic downturn? Would any others have been more successful?
- In what ways and for what reasons are countries economically interdependent?