Tag Archives: hbos

Will the banks bankrupt countries?

I mentioned yesterday that people might now be looking at the creditworthiness of countries rather than the banks themselves.  This is after recent moves to bail out banks by several nations – most notably Ireland.  You see the funny thing is that in some cases the banks are now bigger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of their nations.  Here are a few examples:

Kaupthing Edge has total assets of €53bn – that’s 623% of Iceland’s GDP.

Landsbanki (IceSave) has €32bn – 374% of Iceland’s GDP.

They’re not the only banks in Iceland but between them represent around 1,000% of Iceland’s GDP.  With Glitnir having recently drained the Icelandic government’s coffers, would there be anything left to support other banks?  Of course it’s not quite that simple – if a bank goes bust all of it’s cash deposits don’t suddenly disappear.  On the other hand, this market is all about confidence – or rather a lack of it.

How about Ireland’s bank guarantee?

Bank of Ireland – €183bn – 102% of Ireland’s GDP.

Anglo Irish – €97bn – 54% of Ireland’s GDP.

Just two of the guaranteed banks have assets worth around 150% of GDP.  And let’s not forget that Ireland’s economy has been rather bloated recently due to an astonishing property boom that has now become a property crash.  The guarantee was a very shrewd move but essentially backed by thin air.

Now we turn to another bank popular with savers, ING.  It has assets of around €1,370bn which equated to 290% of the Netherlands GDP.

The UK has a number of huge banks.  RBS, HSBC, Barclays, HBOS, Lloyds TSB, Standard Chartered, Alliance & Leicester, Bradford & Bingley between them have assets of €6,900bn which represents 420% of GDP.

There is a nice list of these figures on the FT website here.

Banks declare each other likely to default due to their excessive leveraging then countries take on their bad debts to support them.  We are simply transferring all the bad debt to the countries instead.  Would I loan money to Iceland or Ireland?  Nope.


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Is shorting banks a crime?

Did this really just happen?

The Board of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) today (Thursday 18 September) agreed to introduce new provisions to the Code of Market Conduct to prohibit the active creation or increase of net short positions in publicly quoted financial companies from midnight tonight.

The full Financial Services Authority statement

Surely it’s a normal part of the way the market functions? The FSA go on to explain:

Hector Sants, chief executive of the FSA, said:

“While we still regard short-selling as a legitimate investment technique in normal market conditions, the current extreme circumstances have given rise to disorderly markets. As a result, we have taken this decisive action, after careful consideration, to protect the fundamental integrity and quality of markets and to guard against further instability in the financial sector.”

The phrase “disorderly markets” implies that people have been colluding to manipulate the market.  In other words those city boys will make money one way or another – what a bunch of bankers.  Unfortunately it’s very difficult to prove insider trading – people in the city get away with it all the time.

But let’s not kid ourselves that this whole market crash and the HBOS troubles are caused by people manipulating the market.  This is the equivalent of stopping people from looting during a riot – it’s the least of our worries.