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September 16, 2007

Will Hutton on Northern Rock

Here's a surprise. It's all Maggie's fault.

The pictures of Gordon Brown having tea with Lady Thatcher in Downing Street in the middle of a bank run could hardly have been more compromising. It was her philosophy that above any other has led us to this pass.

I was looking for some sort of guide as to what should actually happen:

We need a solid, social democratic government to reduce the risk of such recklessness in future, not tell us that finance should be left to finance while the taxpayer picks up the pieces.

A social democratic government, eh? You mean a little more like Germany? You know, Rhineland capitalism...that's what Will normally means when he says such things. Certainly, Germany has never had that dose of Thatcherism now, has it?


SachsenLB is the second German bank to be caught up in the subprime turmoil which has hit stock markets across the world after the troubled IKB, which was rescued with an 8.1 billion dollar liquidity line extended by state-owned KfW, its main shareholder.


The German bank Sachsen LB is the newest victim of the subprime turmoil that has hit European commercial paper markets. The government-backed German Savings Associations have provided a €17.3 billion credit line for the investment fund called Ormond Quay belonging to Sachsen LB. This is the third German bailout in three weeks.

So, from the available evidence. A social democratic system of bank regulation has seen three banks requiring salvaging because they have already lost money in these mortgage markets. They've been rescued at great cost to the taxpayers.

A more free market system has had one bank run, this brought on by the inability to roll over short term borrowings. No cost to the taxpayer (as yet. Given the interest being charged, likely a profit in fact).  No losses as yet in fact. Just a credit crunch.

And our Will says that the second system is worse than the first and we should move from the second to the first. What excellent advice, eh? Guess that's why they pay him the big bucks.

September 16, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink


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Are you saying in the German case the money has actually been spent?

Tim adds: In the German case, the money has already been lost: they invested in bonds whose value has now fallen. Northern Rock is something different (so far). They've got a classic liquidity crisis.

Posted by: Matthew | Sep 16, 2007 10:19:14 AM

At the moment, though it'll be interesting whether their assets end up being worth what they think.

But that wasn't quite what I meant. In the German case, has the German taxpayer actually spent 25.4bn euros on these two banks, ie in the same way it spends about that on defence per year (or twice that on defence, but you get what I mean).

Tim adds: As far as I'm aware, thy've had to put the money in. The N Rock this is still an overdraft facility.

Posted by: Matthew | Sep 16, 2007 11:26:15 AM

I'm a little sceptical, I have to say. That would nearly double the government's budget deficit.

Reports I've seen sugges it is a credit line as the bank is unable to sell its commercial paper. I don't think the bank's losses are 25.4bn euro.

Posted by: Matthew | Sep 16, 2007 12:50:48 PM

I've done some more research and I'm really not sure you are right in your assertion that the money has been spent. A report in Townhall (ok..ok) says that the credit line had not even be drawn upon as of Aug 28th.

What was your source?

Posted by: Matthew | Sep 16, 2007 6:12:03 PM

NR has now put itself up for sale.

Seeing as its market capitalisation as at Friday was only about £2bn, it would only require a 2% write down on its loan book of £113 bn for it to be worthless.

If house prices go down by 'only' 10% then NR will have to write down at least 2% of its loan book and that is the end of that.

Posted by: Mark Wadsworth | Sep 16, 2007 7:14:53 PM