Domingo, 24 de Fevereiro de 2008

Nacionalização anglo-saxónica

Se há algo que não costuma ser associado ao liberalismo das economias anglo-saxónicas são nacionalizações. O pudor do Estado face à iniciativa privada e a aversão epidérmica desta ao Estado costumar manter um largo cordão sanitário entre ambos. No entanto, a dimensão da recente crise do crédito hipotecário nos EUA parece não ter deixado alternativa ao Governo britânico no caso do banco Northern Rock, "temporariamente nacionalizado". Será? John Gapper, demolidor, recorda "en passant" que o Lloyds TSB fez três ofertas para a aquisição do banco e que até Sir Richard Branson (Virgin) se dispôs a assumir o passivo (mediante um modesto lucro). E daqui resulta a lista dos 10 perdedores com a nacionalização. Cáustico.
No Financial Times em:

The top 10 Northern Rock losers

By John Gapper

Published: February 20 2008 18:42 | Last updated: February 20 2008 18:42

Ingram Pinn

There are no winners from the British government’s decision this week to nationalise Northern Rock, the mortgage lender. There is, however, an embarrassment of losers.

Northern Rock is only one of many troubled banks. Even Credit Suisse, which seemed to have side-stepped the worst of the credit crisis, turns out to have had a hole in its balance sheet. But Northern Rock is the first British bank to suffer a run on its deposits since 1866. It is still hurting reputations across the financial and political world, right up to Gordon Brown, the prime minister.

So, with apologies to David Letterman, the US chat show host, here, in reverse order, is the list of Top 10 Northern Rock losers.

10. Mervyn King. The Bank of England governor has put on a fine rearguard action since September, when he topped the list of probable victims. He has since worked his way craftily down to the bottom.

He started out by rejecting calls for any intervention in financial markets and then had to do a U-turn. Five months on he has gained a second term as governor and is on firmer ground than the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority. The Treasury used to mutter about him being a head-in-the-clouds academic but now wants to give him extra powers, which suggests that he graduated in infighting.

9. Lloyds TSB. The bank made a bid (actually, three bids) for Northern Rock before things got out of control. That was rebuffed by the Treasury because Lloyds TSB wanted it to guarantee any shortfall in deposits. The Treasury is now taking what it calls “the last resort” of owning the Rock’s entire balance sheet instead. Maybe it should have taken the first one. Just a thought.

8. The investment banks. Well, it has been a long five months and Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Blackstone and Greenhill & Co, who advised various sides, have worked hard. Maybe that accounts for the £75m ($146m) bill that the advisers to Northern Rock submitted last Saturday, including one bank’s claim that it deserved a “success fee” for getting the Rock nationalised.

These are difficult times for bankers, given the credit crisis and the flow of mergers and acquisitions being reduced to a trickle, and you need chutzpah to get your bonus. Even so, if the Treasury seizing your client’s assets after rejecting your rescue plan counts as success, what would failure look like?

7. Sir Richard Branson. The bearded entrepreneur planned to slap his Virgin brand on the Rock, take a chance that his £1.25bn of new equity would not be wiped out by a housing recession, pay the government a modest fee to rent its AAA balance sheet and make a 20 per cent return on equity. He will have to find other chances to pull a fast one.

6. The shareholders. Hedge funds enjoy taking people to court and they may have to do just that if they are to get much out of the Treasury for their lost equity. I suppose we ought to sympathise with those lured to the City of London on the promise that New Labour had been converted to laisser faire, only to be clobbered by Old Labour-style nationalisation. But equity is known as risk capital for a good reason. My investment advice to them is: get over it.

5. The employees. Up to 3,000 jobs could be lost at Northern Rock as the new management under Ron Sandler shrinks its mortgage book and tries to stabilise it. There is no obvious reason why the staff should have known better than to work there but the lesson is to be wary of working for any institution that claims to have discovered a new form of financial alchemy. The problem is there have been a lot of those.

4. The Financial Services Authority. It was not very long ago that the initials FSA were whispered enviously around the world’s financial centres as the model for “light-touch” regulation. In practice, the FSA proved not so much a light-touch regulator of Northern Rock as an out-of-touch one.

Having vented its frustration on the Bank of England (see above), the Treasury seems now to have settled on the FSA as its official whipping-boy. Those who attended the negotiating sessions over the Rock’s future noted that the seats at the centre of the table went to Treasury officials, with Bank officials at their side. The FSA bods were shuffled to the end of the table and treated like embarrassing relatives.

3. Alistair Darling. You could view the chancellor of the exchequer’s decision to reject the Lloyds TSB offer, then guarantee the Rock’s deposits, then negotiate with private bidders and finally nationalise it as a statesmanlike mulling of less-than-perfect options culminating in decisive action. Or you could see it as pathetic dithering followed by the abandonment of all hope. Unfortunately, some Downing Street officials, while espousing the former view in public, seem privately to favour the latter.

2. Gordon Brown. Talking of Downing Street, there sits the prime minister formerly known as prudent. He has taken the advice of the Treasury and Goldman Sachs and punted on owning the Rock rather than off-loading it to Sir Richard. The good news is that, if anything goes wrong, he can ditch his chancellor for getting him into a mess. The bad news is that Mr Darling is the only equity he has left to burn.

1. Britannia. No, not the building society but the nation. Time was when the UK, with its 9.4 per cent of gross domestic product devoted to financial services, looked like the epitome of post-industrial, creative capital, economies. Less so now. Britannia ruled the waves of the global financial services industry but her Rock has had to be propped up and the waves lap around her.

More columns at

Read John Gapper’s blog at

publicado por MMP às 01:35
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