The Lead Taker: RBS, where next?

RBS, where next?




It's about time we got over ourselves and relinquished our pariah status with regard to certain institutions and RBS in particular..

What's done is done, the landscape has changed and the assets of the bank are almost unrecognisable from Fred Goodwin's days.

 
More importantly, the bank owes the taxpayer a huge amount of money and I am waiting to see just how charitable the Government intends to be in fulfilling the EEC mandate to auction off over 300 of its branches.
 
Time was when ministers set out plans to create three new retail banking chains out of compulsory sales of RBS and Lloyds' assets, so the country would be blessed with a new breed of “boring” banks.
 
Business plans would be comprehensible to even their lowly retail customers, i.e. a focus on deposits and loans and nothing whatever to do with investment banking.
 
But what exactly would encourage even a coalition government on the back foot to consider allowing 316 RBS branches - and thousands of small business accounts - to be swallowed up by Sir Richard Branson's diverse empire?  
 
Santander would have fared no better but, fortunately, has now quit the scene, having grown so tired of waiting for final terms that it preferred swallowing a cost provision of £52 million.
 
Having initially been pipped to the post by the Spanish bank, re-enter Sir Richard, White Knight par excellence as far as UK entrepreneurism is concerned.
 
I could go on in praise of the man but am asking instead “at what price to the taxpayer?”, who has already seen Virgin swoop in and buy Northern Rock for a mere £747 million?
 
Virgin splashed its logo across 75 Northern Rock branches and, no doubt, would do the same with 316 RBS branches in the event of a successful bid. 
 
Putting aside a cheering-up of Britain's beleaguered High Streets with a splash of red, this would be a sorry and unjust day for the taxpayer because, true to his nature, Branson will drive a very tough deal.
 
We could blame the EU and its competition commission rules for the prospect, as the rushed rescue of RBS left the group heavily compromised in that respect. 
 
But should that day arrive when Virgin buys the RBS branches, I will be blaming the Government for leaving the taxpayer to bite the bullet once again and pay another heavy tithing to White Knight, Sir Richard.
 
What's wrong with creating a mutual structure out of the RBS offload that would accommodate the EU mandate and at the same time support government lending initiatives?
 
There is also the option of RBS relaunching its Williams & Glyn’s brand, which once boasted a branch network of 330 in its stronghold in the North West.
 
While the name ceased to exist on the High Street twenty-five years ago, Williams & Glyn’s is apparently still listed as a company and the idea was mooted back in 2009 as a way round competition issues.
 
Surely there are people at HM Treasury clever enough to come up with a plan because either a "mutual" or Williams and Glyn's solution could buy time and allow for the sale of the RBS business at full value, once the market has recovered. 
 
Come on, even a management buyout is a possibility in the not too distant future and RBS customers about to be shipped of to Virgin, or whoever, might also appreciate a fresh approach. 
 
I for one would manage to overcome the entrenched British reluctance to switch banks at the prospect of finding my accounts with Virgin Money, or Tesco for that matter. 
 
It would be straight off to Barclays or the Co-op for me in such a scenario and if you are wondering why, history tells us that when RBS bought NatWest it was embarking on a phase of recklessly biting off more than it could chew ... until the rot set in.
 
Of course, Richard Branson is likely much more astute than the disgraced former management of RBS; I take my hat off to him for his successful fight over the West Coast Mainline franchise and some of his other endeavours in pursuit of commercial justice.
 
However, when it comes the RBS sale, we need a Knight whose search for the Holy Grail is on behalf of the UK taxpayer, not Virgin's share price and profits - so let's hope one exists among the Don Quixotes of the Government!
 

1 Comments

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    annon

    how would a management buy out work.

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