It’ll take 65 more years like this one to get our money back
Everyone seems jolly happy with the Lloyds Banking Group results: profits are up almost tenfold to around £2 billion before tax, embezzlement, dodgy accountancy, brave faces and brass necks are taken into account. Appallingly idiotic investment bets halved to a mere billion quid – and there was a satisfying absence of any fresh charges related to the mis-selling of payment protection insurance. That scandal will very likely cost LBG £6.8bn by the time they’ve finished.
However, dig beneath the headlines and the whole thing looks less fragrant:
1. The management declined to give any firm guidance on when dividends might recommence.
2. They also declined to comment on when the UK government might start selling its 39% stake in the group.
3. 35% of all profit came from selling government bonds, which is sort of more of our money going round in circles.
4. The cost of preparing more than 600 branches for disposal as a standalone bank is now close to a billion Pounds, and there’s still no sign of a buyer after the Coop deal fell through.
Finally, these are all nice big numbers and so forth, but the HBOS bailout cost we the taxpayers £260billion and thus far we’ve had zero return from reducing our shareholding, because this involved Lloyds issuing new shares to debt holders in February 2010 – also known as writing off the dilution. So then, just 65 years to go before we get out money back.
The financial press coverage of this farce today is full of boosts, surges and leaps. Me, I’d rather just have the money back, before they decide to steal what they haven’t already had.